North Koreans have been able to fully embrace the spirit of the country’s “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism” month by purchasing two new distinctly anti-American postage stamps. The stamps were launched at the end of last month to coincide with the anniversary of the Korean War.
One features a fist crushing a U.S. missile while the other evokes even more destructive imagery, showing an array of warheads locked in on a target that appears to be the U.S. Capitol.
— CNN (@CNN) July 17, 2017
The stamps, as well as a mass anti-American rally held in Pyongyang on the June 25 anniversary, came at a time of increased tension with the United States. On U.S. Independence Day, North Korea conducted its first-ever test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which leader Kim Jong Un called a “gift” to Americans.
Experts stated that the missile could potentially reach Alaska, while North Korean state media said it was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and meant the country has “risen to become one of the few nuclear weapons states.”
The U.S. strongly condemned the test, with United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley refusing to rule out military action while also pushing for stronger sanctions against the isolated country.
But while there has been a sharp escalation in rhetoric from both sides in recent months, stamps with a distinctly anti-American flavor are nothing new in North Korea. In 1969, a stamp was released showing then-U.S. President Richard Nixon being ripped apart by pens, accompanied with the tag “International Conference of Journalists Against U.S. Imperialism.”
A few years later, as Quartz notes, a stamp depicted a muscular North Korean punching a cowering U.S. soldier. The picture was embellished by the addition of the words “Yankee bastard.”
But not all of North Korea’s stamps are nearly so provocative. Over the years, they have featured subjects such as Princess Diana, former German tennis great Steffi Graf as well as rodents and plants.
All stamps, though, have a purpose. In some cases, the propaganda angle is not difficult to decipher, but more common is North Korea’s attempts to appeal to collectors and secure a crucial source of foreign currency. Indeed, in its prolific use of stamps to bring in revenue, North Korea and the U.S. share some rare common ground.
“The U.S. is another example of a country that uses the postal service to make a ton of money from gullible collectors,” Ross King, the head of Asia studies at the University of British Columbia, told CNN Monday. “North Korea and the United States are very similar in that respect.”