Yinzhang, Hanko, Inkan, Chops

I’m a fan of stamps. A few years back I too up carving seals as a hobby. Recently on a trip to Japan, my number 2 most important thing to buy was a series of the more casually used Japanese seals, called either hanko or inkan (pictured).

In Taiwan (like Japan), personal seals are almost a necessity. When I bought my motorcycle I needed my stamp in order to transfer the deed. You need them to rent an apartment or open a bank account or to do almost any other major financial transaction. For all intents and purposes it’s your signature. Their use is declining, most severely in Korea it seems, though you can still find seal-carving stands all over Seoul. Their use in Korea only goes back to the early 1900s as a policy put in place by Japan. Still, quite a few people use them.

Currently, 32.8 million Koreans, accounting for 66.5 percent of the population, have registered seal impressions. A total of 48.4 million certificates, worth of about 29 billion won ($23.4 million), were issued last year. (from Joonan Daily)

You can do fine in Korea without one, to be sure. In Taiwan though, without a seal you’re going to be leaving a lot of thumbprints.

Leave a Reply