During the second half of the 19th century, the foreign powers sought to increase their influence on Korea. Christianity was spreading slowly and covertly by underground French Roman Catholic missionaries. The Korean government outlawed Christianity and sought to curb foreign contact. The Korean repulsed military interventions by France (1866) and the US (1871), which attempting to establish trade relations. In 1876 Japanese forced Korea to establish diplomatic relations in order to begin trade, thus weakening Korea’s traditional ties with China. China then sought to neutralize Japanese influence by promoting Korean ties with Western countries, beginning with the 1882 Korea - US Treaty that agreed to open Jenchuan, Yuensan, and Fusan for trade. Mollendorff (Paul Georg von, 1848-1901, a German officer in Chinese Customs) was recommended by Lee Hung Chang (1823-1901, Governor of Chili and Minister of Trade for Northern Coastal Provinces) to take the position as diplomatic advisor to the King of Korea and Chief Officer of Customs. The Customs office had been selling Chinese postage stamps and handled customs and public mail matters. The Customs’ mail service was ended on Jan. 1, 1900 when Korea joined the UPU (also according to Mizuhara's Postal History of Korea, the Chinese Customs in Korea operated postal service from 1889 to the end of 1898). Finally, the (Chinese) Customs itself stopped operation in Korea after Japan’s victory in Russo-Japanese War (1904) and the Treaty of Portsmouth of Sep. 5, 1905.
What was the rate for mail to Korea?
The earliest record for postage rate to Korea I found is from The History of Chinese Postage Stamps vol. I, page 318: Customs postage Rate Table. The letter rate in 1883 for Korea was 6 ca. (per ½ oz.), the same rate as that for US, Japan and Hong Kong. The rate was repeated in 1892-1893 Table, and the last one is from Customs Courier Service: Winter 1894-95, the rate was still the same 6 ca. However, I could not find any example of mail for Korea from the entire Customs Post period so far.
Stamp Catalogue of China (1897-1949) edited by Shiu-Hon Chan, page 422, Postage Table listed Korea in the same rate category with Japan, Formosa (Taiwan), etc. The rate was listed as 10 cents (per ½ oz) from the start of Imperial Post on Feb. 2, 1897. From existing covers and Postal Secretary’s Circulars No. 13, I think this is incorrect.
From existing covers we know that letters dispatched from Customs in Korea to China were charged domestic rate, which was 3 ca. (9 ca. for oversea destinations via Shanghai) or 4 cents. I think it should have been the same rate for mail from China to Korea. Unfortunately existing covers to Korea are so rare that the only two covers* I could find are from The Red Revenue Surcharges - China 1897 vol. II, which bearing 4c and 8c postage respectively, both dated July 16, 1897 from Shanghai to Chemulpoo. By the way all of these 4 covers were sent to the same addressee "E. Meyer Co." The Chinese name of the company was 世昌, it had setups in Tientsin, Shanghai and Hong Kong as well. Speak of mail matters from China to Korea during that period, official mails were carried by ships of the Chinese Navy 北洋水師 (Pei-yang - Northern Fleet), commercial mails were usually sent to foreign offices (in Shanghai) for transmission. Therefore, mail to Korea through Chinese Post was rare, and survived covers were like black swans.
On October 19, 1898, Postal Secretary’s Circulars No. 13 was issued from Peking by Acting Postal Secretary Aalst (Jules A. van, 1858-?, a Belgian officer in Chinese Customs and Post):
From this document we know that:
* Additional Information by Editing Team Leader of the POSTAL HISTORY SOCIETY OF CHINA:
In Meiso Mizuhara’s 1998 edition of Korean Postal History 1884-1905 page 349, he called our attention to the absence of covers from China to Korea, where he wrote:(5) Mystery of Arrived Cover
|| | INDEX | REFERENCES | LINKS | ||