Research Needs

There are actually dozens of medals that I am interested in and a ton of questions that need to be answered.
Below is just a short list of some of them. If you can be of any assistance, please contact me.


Grand Order of Mugunghwa
and
The Order of National Foundation

I need to find and examine all 4 of the medals pictured here.


Order of Military Merit - 1950 Series

The two medals pictured here are purportedly the First and Second Class from the original 1950 series of the Order of Military Merit. It's possible that this is a design drawing and that these medals never really existed. However, ribbon bars for this series are known to exist. I now have the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Class ribbon bars for this series and I have an excellent picture of the 4th class ribbon bar. It still does not answer the underlying question of whether or not the medals were issued. The owner of the 4th Class ribbon bar, has clear documentation that her father received the ribbon bar in lieu of the medal. He later received the medal from the subsequent 1951 design of the Order of Military Merit.

On December 29, 1950, Presidential Decree #427 was issued. In it, the government instituted the Gold, Silver and No Star system, which effectively created an Order of Military Merit in 12 classes. There are several Korean references which state that the red stripes were removed from the ribbon in December of 1950, with no mention of the ribbon’s base color. There is no legislation to support these references. In fact, there were no legislated changes to the ribbon color and/or stripes until May of 1951. While the legislation is relatively clear, the lack of any examples of the medals from this time period creates a dilemma. We cannot state categorically what transpired during this time period. Especially when you consider that the Korean War was in full swing.

I need to find a single example of any class from this series to at least confirm that they were manufactured. What would be even better, would be to find an example of any class from this series with a Gold or Silver Star attached to the ribbon. This would confirm that the order either did or did not follow the legislated changes. Please if you have one of these medals or know where one is at: send me the information so that I can obtain pictures.


Merit Medals - 1949 Series

Pictured below is the 1949 series of Merit Medals. The drawing clearly indicates that all of the planchets are identical. The only differences between one medal and another are the ribbon colors and the Korean characters on the obverse bar. The picture on the right has two Merit Medals, one is for National Foundation, while the far one is the Merit Medal for Defense. According to Korean legislation, the National Foundation Merit Medal should not exist in this form. I would like to find more examples of this deviation to examine. It is likely that this is a protoype that was not approved for issuance, which would tend to imply that there should be one prototype for each of the seven medals. The Merit Medal for Defense is sometimes referred to as the Defense of Seoul Medal. That title is incorrect.


Ki Jang Medals from the Korean War Period

  1. The first medal is the Korean Wound Medal. I am looking for an example with a serial number.
  2. The second medal is the Guerilla Warfare Service Medal. I have an example of the modern production pieces, and I have been able to purchase two complete original medals and two original planchets without ribbons. The two ribboned medals are almost identical to each other, but the two original planchets without ribbons differ from each other and from the original planchets with ribbons. This is probably due to wartime exigencies. If anyone has an original one, with or without ribbon, in their collection or a relatively good picture of an original, please email me, I would love to get some pictures for comparison.
  3. The third medal is the original Korean War Participation Medal. I have been able to purchase two of these medals, but one of them has English text on the reverse, so it is probably a reproduction. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has one. I am hoping to get some idea of how many were issued and to see if I can gain some insight into the who, what, when and where of their manufacture and issuance.
  4. The fourth medal is the Next of Kin Medal. I have had to opportunity to purchase two and to examine another one. Because these were produced during the war, I am interested in seeing if there were any variations in their manufacture, similar to what I have seen in the Guerilla Warfare Service Medal.
  5. The fifth item is the Presidential Citation for Individuals. I have not had an opportunity to examine an original.


Problems with Prewar Police Awards

In 1946, the U.S. Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK) reported, “The Department of Police has adopted a system of awards for bravery consisting of four citations". These are:

The highest award is for:

  • "Gallantry and Intrepidity at imminent personal hazard of life and with knowledge of the risk assumed." It is a cloth decoration containing three white stars on a yellow background, to be worn on the lower right sleeve.
The other awards are for:
  • "Personal combat with an armed opponent in the line of police duty, with an act of extraordinary heroism at imminent risk of life",
  • "Personal risk of life in intelligent performance of police duties", and
  • "Acts of personal bravery or highly intelligent police work".
There is no mention of what the other three awards looked like, but it is assumed that they were probably also cloth decorations containing a lesser number of stars on a yellow background. This is all of the information that I have on these awards, and because these awards were with the National Police Administration and not with the central government, there is no information readily available. I have not been able to get any cooperation with the Korean National Police.


Problems with Prewar Military Awards

On July 15th, 1949, the Korean Department of Defense announced the establishment a temporary system of Military Awards until a more permanent group of medals was instituted by the central government. According to the newspaper article to your left, this temporary group had 5 different awards, namely:

  • A Distinquished Service Cross,
  • A Distinguished War Service Award,
  • A Combat Service Medal,
  • A Wound Medal for Permanent Disability, and
  • A Wound Medal.
Unfortunately, this newspaper article only tells part of the story.
In June 1949, Major General Edgar Erskine Hume (1889-1952) was made Director General of Medical Services for the U. S. Far East Command under General Douglas MacArthur. The nature of his work required extensive traveling and afforded him many opportunities to obtain orders and medals for the American Numismatic Society in New York City. Pictured here is the set of Korean Military Awards that Major General Hume acquired and donated to the American Numismatic Society in December of 1949.

This document adds a significant amount of information to the newspaper article that is pictured above. It shows that the Combat Service Award had four different ribbon bars that were awarded based on time served. It also shows that the Distinguished Combat Service Award had three different ribbon bars but does not give the award criteria. It has the Distinguished Service Cross and the Wound Medal but does not show the Wound Medal for Permanent Disability. There is no mention of the award criteria for the Distinguished Service Cross.

Try as I might, I have not been able to find any other information on these awards. Attempts to contact the Korean Military have been futile. The only information that the ANA has, is a copy of the original letter from Major General Humes, as well as the acquisition and de-acquisition dates. The ANA sold this group at auction in April of 2007.


Additional Research Projects
(A.K.A. Prewar Headaches)

In 1946 the United States Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK) reported that: “The Korean Constabulary and Coast Guard personnel who served with national defense units at any time between 16 January 1946 and a date yet to be announced will be awarded the Korean National Defense Organization Service Ribbon.” No information is given on the design of the ribbon. There are other sources which mention an Honor Medal of the National Defense Constabulary Forces. It is possible that these are one and the same award. Additional research is required.



There are other Constabulary and Coast Guard Awards. In the same publication mentioned above, USAMGIK reports: "Other newly established decorations and awards for which national defense personnel may be eligible are":
  1. The Constabulary Decoration for Meritorious Service and the Coast Guard Decoration for Meritorious Service.
  2. The Constabulary Decoration for Gallantry and the Coast Guard Decoration for Gallantry.
  3. The National Defense Service Injury Award.
  4. The National Defense Exemplary Service Medal for Constabulary and Coast Guard Enlisted Personnel.
Unfortunately, no information is given as to the appearance of the awards or to the award criteria. Additional research is required.



On Apr. 21, 1950, Syngman Rhee, the President of the Republic of Korea, wrote a letter to the Charge d’Affaires, Mr. E. F. Drumright at the American Embassy in Seoul. In the letter he states: “The Korean government is planning, in connection with the celebrations on Liberation Day, August 15, this year, to award a Liberation Medal and Ribbon to all members of the United States Armed Forces who served in Korea from the close of the war in 1945 until the establishment of the Government of the Republic of Korea on Aug. 15, 1948.” This offer was turned down by the U.S. government. However, with the letter having been dated for late April and the awarding scheduled less than 4 months later, it is reasonable to assume that prototype medals were made or at the very least designed. To date no information on the design of this "Liberation Medal" has surfaced. Additional research is requred.



In a follow-up letter to the U.S. State Department concerning Syngman Rhee's offer of a "Liberation Medal", Mr. Drumright wrote: “The Embassy further understands that at a later date the President wishes to give an award to KMAG personnel, but that he wishes first to give proper recognition to USAFIK (US Armed Forces in Korea).” It is possible that, buried somewhere in the Korean archives, there may be a sketch of this proposed medal. Additional research is required.



On these last two Research Projects, I asked a Korean go to the Presidential National Archives and see if the Archives would assist me in my research. They stated that they could not help. To date, I have not been able to find someone in Korea to do the legwork.


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