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North Finds Stamp Selling Lucrative

Posted May. 25, 2005 03:31,   


“Is selling stamps more lucrative than the Gaesong Industrial Complex?”

A vice ministerial-level meeting between the two Koreas was held in Gaesong from May 16 to 19. It was reported on May 24 that during the meeting, the North requested the South allow the sale of the North’s Dokdo stamps in the South.

Kim Ung-hee, a director general of the exchange and cooperation coordination division at the Unification Ministry, said that North’s request was not official and it only came when the delegates from each side were chatting. Kim added that after the request, however, the ministry is reconsidering its policy of banning North’s Dokdo stamps from being brought into South Korea.

A South Korean company had requested approval from the ministry to bring in North Korean stamps last year, but the ministry turned it down on the worry that stamps which bear the word, “Juche” (Self-reliance) might be misused as a propaganda tool to promote the North Korean regime. The company made the same request this year, but was rejected again by the ministry.

The North’s request comes from the realization that selling stamps is a more lucrative business to the North than the Gaesong Industrial Complex is. The company requesting the approval of the Dokdo stamps is reportedly planning to import two million sets at the price of two dollars per set.

If the ministry approves, North Korea can earn four million dollars (or four billion won) at a time only from selling their stamps. The Korea Stamp Corporation has issued a new Dokdo stamp set called, “Ecology of Dokdo,” on May 5.

Meanwhile, about 2,300 North Korean laborers are working in the Gaesong Industrial Complex at a monthly wage ranging from $57.50 to $60. Currently, the estimated profit of selling the stamps is almost equal to 30 months` worth of salaries for all of the North Korean workers in the complex.

A South Korean high ranking official said that North Korea at first didn’t understand how the profit is gained by selling the stamps, which usually costs them little, could turn such a huge profit, far bigger than what they could earn at the Gaesong Industrial Complex, which requires a large number of workers.

It is known that Dokdo Stamps issued by North Korea are sometimes traded on shopping or auction sites are around 16,000 won per set.

Hyung-June Park lovesong@donga.com