Fender has used Korean Manufacture for both Fender and Squier branded guitars since the mid 80s. Some of the guitars made
are of pretty high quality and some are really quite poor for Fender.
The first Fender experience with Korea actually occurred in 1981. This was under the guidance of John Page who later went on to manage the Fender Custom Shop. The idea was to produce a budget strat to be known as the Bullet. The Samick factory who have made some decent guitars were asked to build some prototypes to a price point. According to Page the guitars they received were awful, he cites 1/2 inch high actions. So it was decided that they would assemble the bullets in the USA with Korean parts. These guitars were also not good enough so in the end all manufacturing was carried out in the USA.
This started in the mid 80s and Korean guitars were first seen around 1988 made by the Young Chang Akki factory in Seoul and went on to involve several Korean Factories mainly for Squier guitars but also a reasonable number of Fender branded models.
Fender did not keep any digital records of Korean Manufacture before 1993 so they say not to rely too heavily on serial number
dating before that date. Here's what we know.
|CN||Cort||90s 1st digit is the year but could be made as much as 2 years later in extreme cases|
|VN||Saehan (Sungham)||as CN|
|KC||Cort||1st 2 digits indicate the year from the 90s to at least 2012|
|E||Young Chang or Saehan see note below||1 digit is the year except E10 is 1987|
|KV||Saehan Sungham||System as KC|
|M||Early 90s system as CN|
|NK||90s system as CN|
|S||Samick||1st digit indicates the year from late 80s to mid 90s|
|Numbers only||from the 90s to the 2000s 1st digit is the year in 6 or 7 digit numbers (90s) 1st 2 digits are the year in 8 digit numbers|
*E0 made by Saehan in 1990 E1 plus 5 digits black serial number made by Saehan in 1990 otherwise Young Chang