[Eye plus] Hobby collectors’ items show pieces of history

By Park Ga-young
  • Published : Mar 10, 2017 - 20:29
  • Updated : Mar 10, 2017 - 20:29

To most, yesterday’s newspapers, used stamps or emptied pay envelopes are trash. But they can become pieces of history when collected over a period time, even more so in the era of digitalization.

Song Sang-cheon, Lim Il-tae and Lee Chong-chan -- three unrelated men in their 70s -- have one thing in common; they each have a hobby of collecting a certain type of item for more than 50 years. 

Song Sang-cheon, a newspaper and periodicals collector (Park Hyun-Koo/The Korea Herald)

Song Sang-cheon has been collecting newspapers and periodicals since he was 15 years old. His house has yielded most of its space to his collection, leaving only maze-like pathways. His collection could stand up to 14 stories high if put in a single pile, says the 73-year-old man.

Lim Il-tae, a stamp collector (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Lim Il-tae’s stamp collection began in 1957, when as an elementary school student he saw a red stamp of King Sejong. In order to collect foreign stamps, he made pen pals from eight different countries. Lim, a 73-year-old retired elementary school teacher, said, “I learned more about (US) President Roosevelt from stamps than from classes.”

“You could learn a lot from collecting an item for a long time,” Lim added.

These days, one’s wages are automatically transferred to a bank account and the details can often be checked on the internet or even via a smartphone app. When Lee Chong-chan, 74, got his first job as a government employee, his monthly salary came in a pay envelope. The envelope contained details such as his first income being 5,820 won ($5) in 1966. The envelopes are a candid illustration of how his salary has increased over his 40-year career, reflecting South Korea’s fast economic development.

Lee Chong-chan collected his pay envelopes (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

Photographed by Park Hyun-koo (

Written by Park Ga-young (