True Value Does not Show up, They are Inside
Have you ever used a stamp for sending a letter? If you have, it might be just a memorable thing in your childhood. These days, technology of information and communication is so developed that stamps do not take the role of communication anymore. However, we cannot deny that the stamp, like money, is one treasure of expressing our culture, history and customs. There is a woman who is drawing a great story on stamps. She says that stamps are our heritage and the most valuable thing to feel Korea.
SMT How was your university life?
KIM I could find what I really wanted to do through the whole university life. I majored in industrial design at SMU. I started studying design after being interested in art when I was a high school student. Everyone has a moment to sense what they like and what makes them happy. For me, art is that, so I decided to major in design. In university, I could learn art very deeply, and I was totally absorbed in it. As time goes on, my heart for arts has grown bigger, so it has pushed me to become who I am.
SMT I heard that a professor recommended you to be a stamp designer. Could you tell about the whole story?
KIM Specifically, I am a member of design team at the Korea Post.* When I was senior in university, my professors suggested I apply for the Korea Post as a stamp designer. In Korea, the stamp designers who are authorized by the government are few, about 6 members. They never recruit new designers unless there is a vacant position. Fortunately, however, when I was in my graduating class, there was a job opening at the Korea Post for just one position of stamp designer, so I applied, took an examination and finally passed it. Working
as a stamp designer for about 20 years, I have really appreciated the professor who recommended this job.
SMT Could you explain about being a stamp designer?
KIM As stated above, there is a limited number of stamp designers in Korea. That’s because only a few designers can get a right to design stamps, and they are on the design team of Korea Post. Korea Post publishes new stamps every year, and occasionally they make commemorative stamps when there are special events such as the Olympics and the Group of 20 in Seoul last year. Also,Korea Post is the only place where stamps are made in Korea. Every stamp you have seen is work of ours. Once a stamp is made and published, then they are preserved
immortally. So, making a stamp is not easy, and it involves lots of tasks.
SMT As I investigated, the process of making stamp is not only designing. From deciding topic to prior investigating, there is a lot of work that goes into it. Could you explain the process?
KIM Like any other design works, we first understand the purpose of the object, what the object says and who they want to communicate with. The post stamp, however, aims for the general public, not a specific target, so a post stamp should be easy to understand. At the same time, it must be accurate and professional on the whole field of knowledge, because a stamp is used by all kinds of people, including expertise in one field. At the beginning of every year, the Korea Post has a council with expertise from all walks of life about the new-year stamp. The council deliberates very carefully about what topics can be in a stamp, and then some topics are selected. After that meeting, designers should research about the topic by studying specialty books or talking with experts on the topic very deeply. After that, we start he work of designing.
SMT The 2012 London Olympic stamp is your work, and that is so impressive for us. What did you think while making the stamp?
KIM At the first time when I was asked to design the London Olympic stamp, I really wondered about what I should drawn in it, such as which sports event, player or sex of the player, and which attraction of London, I should decide the whole story of the London Olympics and Korea. Finally, archery, swimming and Big Ben, London Bridge were selected. After deciding on the materials, I focused on how to express them and the story very well. And then, the 2012 London Olympic commemorative stamp was born.
SMT The most commonly used topics are Korean cultural heritage and traditional customs. Nowadays, pop culture icons are also used such as Pororo and Girls’ Generation. I think stamps can be the way of advertising Korea very effectively, because stamps circulate the world. What do you think about it?
KIM I think something very Korean is the best item for a stamp. That’s because stamps have symbolic value of the nation. In the world, there is no country who does not issue a stamp, so each country’s stamp is considered as a symbol of the nation and is preserved very well. Also, except for pop culture, we could not talk about the country’s atmosphere, but there is a rule of making stamps that says never to draw a livin person. That is because if a living person who is used on a stamp does something criminal, the stamp is already issued and cannot re-collected. These ridiculous events can happen, so the rule exists.
SMT Nowadays, as skill of information and communications have developed, letters using stamps are vanishing. There are people who consider stamps as useless things. But everybody has a memory of collecting stamps. What do you think about the worth of stamps?
KIM Korea has especially powerful technology for information and communications, so there are many concerns
about a stamp’s worth. Some say our society does not need stamps anymore, so we should stop making them. I don’t want that number of people who use stamps to become bigger than now. However, stamps
have their own value in themselves and contain beautiful Korean culture, so what I just want is that more people recognize it. Stamps are valuable things as memorials and reminders of Korea. We could see the whole Korean history and culture through stamps. That’s the power of stamps.
Kim Sojeong (KIM)
• Graduated from the Department of Industrial Design at Sookmyung Women’s University
• Stamp Designer of Postage Stamps & Philately Division at Kore a POST under Ministry of Knowledge Economy