|CLOVER from Korea|
|At left is a machine which I acquired in an auction. Something struck me as odd about it, even though 80% of the machine looked just like the typical SILVER-SEIKO machines, from Japan. In particular, there were four oddities:
1. The unfinished, or silver, dowel plate, visible behind the keytops.
2. The keytops themselves; black instead of white.
3. The zippered vinyl case, in lieu of the normal snap-over plastic lid.
4. The unfamiliar brand name of CLOVER.
|The rest of the machine, in all details and shapes, did, however, indicate that the machine was certainly of SILVER-SEIKO heritage. It turns out that this machine is a clone of the familiar Japanese-made machines, which commonly bear either the ROYAL or SILVER-REED brand names, and this machine was made later... in Korea!
The labeling on the rear of the machine is clear and unmistakeable. There are two labels; one is the serial number and ID label, the other a Quality Assurance system label with a manual stamping in its center. On both, the manufacturer of the machine is given as K-MEK Inc. of Korea. The machine is a Model 302. The serial number of the unit is 811201, but the printing of this is interesting as the first digit of "8" is smaller than the rest. It turns out, by reading the smeared print on the QA label, and with info learned later, that this is in fact a "year code" of 1978.
|At right, the label from the front of the machine's top cover, with (left-pointing) arrow emblem and CLOVER brand name.|
|South Korea has, for many years, been attempting to jump-start its industry and export base, the best examples of which to date have been automobiles. However, it seems that a serious attempt was made to get into the portable typewriter market, albeit very likely just too late. The following information is the best available, considering that the company involved has deleted its website after an apparent buyout in January of this year (2003.)
In 1973, SAE-HAN Pacific Company was founded in South Korea, for the purpose of manufacturing goods and parts in metals. The name of the company was changed to K-MEK Inc. in mid-1977. On April 4, 1978, the company launched the mass production of manual portable typewriters. The volume and duration of this production is not known at this time. The company evolved into Kyungbang Machinery Co in 1989, but in very recent times was spun out of the larger Kyungbang group and became Growell Metal Inc. No more about this particular company can be found as of yet, except references to specific metal parts they've made over the years, ranging from pure ingots to carburetors... and of course, these typewriters.
It appears that, nearly simultaneously with the formation of the company, an affiliated Kyungbang Clover Ltd. was formed to handle sales and distribution of products, likely targeted primarily for export. This clearly explains the brand name of the machine; its logo appears to be a representation of an arrow which, to my eye, represents the export nature of the products.
|We cannot yet find more data on the K-MEK firm, but some things are now clearer. It is known that SILVER-SEIKO sold off its tooling for manual portables and bet the farm on electric and electronic machines at some point; we may now assume this to be 1978 for the oldest model. We know that SILVER-SEIKO made three general groups of machines; those such as at left (ROYAL MERCURY), those with plastic bodies (and sometimes with transistor radios in their lids,) and the very late Model 500 machine, larger and more sophisticated. It now appears that tooling for the first and last ranges went to Korea, and for the middle range went to Bulgaria.|
|We do know that K-Mek tried to keep in the business later than the date of this machine. Information has been found that a 'think-tank' called the Engineering Systems and Design Lab, or EnSyD, provided a final report to K-Mek in 1984 which was titled "A Study on the Development of an Electronic Korean-English Compatible Typewriter." Another study by the firm the same year was titled "Development of Domestic Model of Electronic Typewriter." As of right now, neither the extent of manual typewriter production nor that of electronic typewriter production is known.
What is known is that the oldest model of SILVER-SEIKO manual portable went into production in Korea in 1978, and that the larger 500 model did too (more on that in a moment). The most important thing, though, is the addition to our knowledge base of yet another country and industry which tried to break the Western markets with manual portables, although, as I mentioned, it may have been just too late in the game for any real chance of success. Rarity of these machines would indicate a small production run; and, given the apparent buyout of the company, we may never know the actual production totals or facts.
|the site for collectors of portable typewriters|
|The CLOVER is contained in a zipper type vinyl case, of decently sturdy construction. This is one more piece of evidence that all collectors should unzip and open all such cases -- you really never know what might be inside!!
(Originally posted March 2003.)
|CLOVER Model 302, serial number 806782. Acquired September 2006; seen in a "mood shot" at left.|
|Diagrammatic illustration of Model 302 at right. From the manual: "You will take pride in your new "clover" portable. It is built to the high standards that you have always come to expect from "clover." Whether you are an experienced typist or a beginner, your "clover" is designed to give you many years of high-level performance and ease of operation. To get the most from your new "clover," read this instruction manual carefully. It will point out all the time and effort saving advantages that you gain by typing on this new "clover" portable. Keep it handy!"|
|DONG AH PRECISION CO. / KOREA
Robert Messenger sends us the photo at left. This machine is labeled as READER'S DIGEST 1000, and was made by Dong Ah Precision Co. in Korea. This is the machine derived from the older Silver-Reed 500, originally made by Silver-Seiko and mentioned in the material on the CLOVER above. This manufacturer was only discovered in late 2007, and in February 2008 Robert found this machine and sent us the photo.
|The much more common Royal Safari III at right is essentially identical to the Reader's Digest 1000 above. Other examples of this machine can be found labeled with the name "Marathon."
While the design of the small Silver-Seiko machine went on to Bulgaria, it appears that this larger machine's production ended in Korea as no later form of the design can be found. It is certainly possible that the tooling was sold to some company, somewhere with the intent of production but that it did not materialize; we would not be surprised to find that it went to Bulgaria or even to China. Whatever the case, another piece of the late-era manufacturer puzzle is now in place.