North Korea - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

North Korea, a country in East Asia located in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordered by South Korea, China, Russia, Korea Bay, and the Sea of Japan has a total land area of 46,528 square miles and a population of over 24 Million.North Korea is the most militarized nation whose human rights record leaves everything to be desired. Its overly secretive nature and unwelcoming stance has kept visitors at bay and is nicknamed ‘The Hermit Kingdom’. North Korea is planned and run almost entirely by the government, making its economy state-owned. Industry, agriculture and services are the main contributors to the economy. It has significant mineral resources and its main trading partners are Russia and China. In recent years, other countries have started investing in joint ventures with North Korea.

Travel Resources: 

Its terrain is very diverse with mountains, uplands, coastal plains, valleys, and lowlands. Diamond Mountain is considered the most scenic. Its ‘Complex of Goguryeo Tombs’ is a world Heritage site. The most popular event of the country is the ‘Mass Games’ - gymnastics performed by a large group. Tourism exists after a fashion – visitors are permanently escorted by government eyes.




ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
North Korea Bradt Travel Guide978-1841622194$19Amazing region-wise coverage, so much so that it is a wonder how the author(s) got permission to visit all the places!
Inside North KoreaB0030ILWOW$20192 pages full of photographs, decent narrative, and a good introduction to this closed country.
Korea North and South Nelles Map978-3865742445$121:1.5M Scale. Inset map of Central Seoul.
Korea (North and South) Grounded Adapter Kit – GUA and GUBB001ST6KEC$15

Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of North Korea were a set of five stamps released in 1946 while under Soviet Occupation. The set (Scott #1 to #5) is very rare and catalogs for around $2700 Mint and around $2000 Used. The designs show Rose of Sharon and Diamond Mountains. Following World War II Soviet forces occupied North Korea until 1948 when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was established. This was followed by a stamp released on August 15, 1946 to mark the first anniversary of liberation from Japan. The stamp (Scott #6) is sought after and catalogs for around $350 Mint or Used. The design shows General Kim II Sung. He was the Prime Minister of North Korea from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to 1994 when he died. He was proclaimed the Eternal President of the Republic after his death. The stamps released till 1948 are all very valuable cataloging in the 100s of dollars range.

Other issues of North Korea enjoying good philatelic interest include:
  1. A set of six stamps released on August 15, 1951 in the Korean War theme. The set (Scott #36 to #41) catalogs for around $300 Mint and around $280 Used. The designs show Soviet and North Korean Flags, Hero Kim Ki U, and North Korean, Chinese, and Russian Soldiers. The Korean War started in 1951 with North Korea invading South Korea. It escalated into a proxy war between the super powers with US under UN mandate supporting South Korea and China along with Russia supporting North Korea. Casualties added up to more than 1.8 million and the conflict ended with armistice signed in 1953.
  2. A set of five stamps released in 1958 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The set (Scott #145 to #149) catalogs for around $70 MNH and $20 Used. The designs show Hungnam Fertilizer Plant, Pyongyang Railway Station, DPRK Arms, Weaver, and Dam at Pyongyang.
  3. A long set of twenty two stamps released between 1961 and 1965 in the Industry theme. The set (Scott #296 to #317) catalogs for around $150 MNH and around $60 Used. The designs show Crane-Mounted Tractor, Sungri-1010 Truck, Vertical Milling Machine, Victory April-15 Automobile, 8-Meter Turning Lathe, Radial Boring Lathe, Hydraulic Press, 750-Kg Air Hammer, 200mm Boring Lathe, 3000-ton Press, 3-Ton Air Hammer, Ssangma-15 Excavator, Jangbaek Excavator, 400 HP Diesel Engine, Honing Lathe, Trolley, 8-Meter Planer, and Tunnel Drill. Stamps depicting industry are a common theme on North Korean issues.
  4. A set of three stamps released on December 28, 1973 in the Birds theme. The set (Scott #1177 to #1179) catalogs for around $12 MNH and $2 Used. The designs show Great Reed Warbler, Gray Starling, and Daurian Starling. Birds are another common theme on North Korean stamp issues. It is a great topical collection option and most of the sets are valued higher than other issues from the same period.
  5. A set of five stamps and a souvenir sheet released on January 20, 1986 in the History of the Motor Car theme. The set (Scott #2542 to #2546 and #2547) catalogs for around $10 MNH and $2 Used. The designs show Amedee Bollee and Limousine, Stewarts Rolls, Henry Royce and Silver Ghost, Giovanni Agnelli and Fiat car, Ettore Bugatti and Royal coupe, Louis Renault and fiacre, Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Mercedes. Since the mid-70s, North Korea has issued a number of sets in globally relevant themes. Many of them are valued in the 10s of dollars range while others can be had for a few dollars.
Numismatic Profile:

The first coins of Korea called the t’ongbo were minted around 996AD. Chinese currency was in predominant use during the period. From the mid-seventeenth century till the late-nineteenth century, Korea issued cast coins with a square center hole. There are a huge number of varieties of this issue. The first coins of North Korea in the modern era are Aluminum Chons issued in 1959 showing National Arms in Obverse and Value in Reverse. The issue is inexpensive and catalogs for around a dollar in UNC. North Korea has issued a number of commemorative gold and silver proofs starting with the 100 Won (0.1 Troy Ounce) 40th Anniversary of People’s Republic Issue of 1988 showing National Arms in Obverse and Leaping Equestrian in Reverse. The issues enjoy a slight premium over bullion value.

Numismatic items of North Korea include:


ItemPrice RangeDescription
Coins$2 and upUNCs from the 2000s start around $2. Commemorative Brass Proofs from the 2000s start around $10. Silver Proofs start around $30. Zodiac bi-metal sets and certain low mintage proofs start around $50. Colored Proof Sets and Gold Coins go into the 100s.
Paper Money$1 and upCommon UNCs starts around $1. Recent Specimens start around $10. UNC Bundles and Specimen Sets start around $30. Bundles from the 1970s and prior dates, Uncut Specimen Sets, etc go into the 100s.

Collectible Memorabilia:


ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Antiques$10 and up19th century and early 20th century maps and original photos start around $10. Choson Yi Dynasty pottery bowls start around $50. Vases, inlaid brush pots etc start in the 100s and go into the 1000s.
Art$10 and upMusic posters start around $10. 19th century local scenes and historical prints start around $20. Original works by John Pike, Paul Jacoulet, etc go well into the 100s.



Last Updated: 12/2015.

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