30 No. 4
Countries sometimes use postage stamps to highlight their economic growth and promote their industrial prowess or development plans. Such is the case with South Korea, which issued a set of eight stamps on 15 March 2006 to recognize its key export industries, including automobiles, semiconductors, electronics, textiles, steel, machinery, ships, and petrochemicals. Accounting for nearly three quarters of the country’s total exports (worth some $360 billion in 2007), these industries have made South Korea one of the world’s leading industrialized and most technologically advanced nations.
The stamp illustrated in this note draws attention to the petrochemical industry in South Korea and displays the structural formulas of benzene, ethylene, propylene, and butadiene. In particular, ethylene is the most important petrochemical feedstock in the world in terms of both production volume (about 120 million metric tons) and number of derivatives. About half of the world’s output of ethylene is converted to polyethylene (that’s a lot of plastic bags!) and in the manufacture of ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride, ethylene oxide, styrene, vinyl acetate, ethanol, acetaldehyde, and other organic compounds, with applications ranging from solvents and detergents to chemical fibers and adhesives. Interestingly, ethylene is also an important plant hormone and is extensively used as a ripening agent for fruits and vegetables.
Written by Daniel Rabinovich <[email protected]>.
last modified 5 August 2008.
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