5¢ Flag of Korea
Overrun Countries Series
Issue Date: November 2, 1944
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed by: American Bank Note Company
Printing Method: Flat-Plate
Color: Blue violet, red, light blue, and gray
U.S. #921 is part of the Overrun Countries Series, which honors each of the nations invaded by Axis powers during World War II. It pictures the flag of Korea, which features the Chinese Yin and Yang symbol and four symbols representing the Taoist philosophical ideas of the universe – harmony, symmetry, balance, and circulation.
Korea and World War II
Prior to World War II, Korea had already been under Japanese control for decades. In 1939, more than five million Koreans were forced into labor and tens of thousands more were forced into the Japanese military.
During the Japanese occupation, traditional Korean culture was discouraged, including the use of the Korean language. After the war, Korea was split at the 38th parallel, with the Soviet Union administering the North and the U.S. administering the South.
These Stamps Brought Hope to Overrun Countries of WW II
After receiving several designs from artists who felt the current U.S. postage stamps were unattractive, President Franklin Roosevelt began to consider the types of stamps he wanted to issue. He sought to show the world that America was in this war to achieve world peace, not military dominance. With this in mind, the President suggested the U.S. issue a series of stamps picturing the flags of all the overrun nations in Europe.
In the border surrounding each flag, Roosevelt suggested picturing the Phoenix – an ancient symbol of rebirth. He believed “It might tell those suffering victims in Europe that we are struggling for their own regeneration.” The other side of each flag pictured a kneeling woman “breaking the shackles of oppression.”
When the time came to print the stamps, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was unable to print the multiple colors needed for each flag, so the American Bank Note Company received a special contract for this series.
Additionally, a 5¢ denomination – the foreign rate for first class postage – was chosen so the stamps could be used on overseas mail. The stamps were printed in relatively small quantities and were in high demand as soon as they were issued, with stocks across the country running out almost as soon as they were released.
FDR – The Stamp-Collecting President
President Franklin Roosevelt was instrumental in the design and issuance of U.S. #921. Introduced to stamp collecting at a young age by his mother, Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned to his collection throughout his life to relax and unwind.
Elected President four times, Roosevelt served in the nation’s highest office longer than any other chief executive – 12 years. During those 12 years, Roosevelt shared his love of stamps with the nation, personally approving each of more than 200 stamp designs. He suggested topics, rejected others, and even designed some himself. It was his aim to use stamps not just to send mail but also to educate Americans about our history. And as he reluctantly entered America into World War II, he saw these stamps as an outlet to raise spirits and bring hope.