The Western Gold Mining Concessions in Korea (1883-1939)

Thursday, April 18, 2019 -
6:00pm to 8:00pm
Asiatic Research Institute, Korea University
Tour Leader: 
Robert D. Neff

Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch in cooperation with École française d'Extrême-Orient

Seoul Colloquium in Korean Studies


April's Presentation

Venue:            Grand Conference Room (Room #310), Asiatic Research
                        Institute, Korea University (see detailed directions, below)

Everyone interested in Korean Studies is welcome, please share this information. No registration is needed.

Following Korea’s opening to the West in 1882, attempts to develop the peninsula’s rich mineral resources – primarily gold – began.  The first attempt was by the Jardine Matheson & Co. in 1883/1884 but failed due to the lack of infrastructure and the company’s lack of patience.  An American working for them, James Graham, struck off on his own and tried to establish his own mine but was eventually denied a concession.  In the late 1880s, the Korean government tried to establish its own modern mining camp and imported a stamp mill from the United States but corruption and a lack of conviction resulted in the mill being abandoned and left to rust.

In the late 19th century, a rush of Western concession hunters descended upon Korea gaining rights to develop railroads, streetcars, electrical power plants, telegraph and to exploit natural resources including timber, fishing, whaling, and mining.  Some of the most successful concessions were the gold mines.  These concessions were mainly in the northern part of the peninsula and included the American-owned Oriental Consolidated Mining Company (OCMC), Seoul Mining Co., Taiyudong (French mining concession), Gwendoline (British), the Italian Mining Concession, Korea Syndikat (German), Tangokae (German) and Chiksan. These mining concessions, especially OCMC and Taiyudong, had a great impact on Korea.  

Large numbers of Western employees and their families were brought to the northern part of the peninsula and established their own communities complete with electricity, telephone, hospitals, schools and roads.  They provided employment for thousands of Koreans, Chinese and Japanese laborers, carpenters and miners.  Yet, despite the impact they had on Korean society, very little is known about them.

As the years passed, some of these mines were played out and abandoned, but others, like the OCMC and Taiyudong, continued to operate under Western ownership until the late 1930s when they were purchased by the Japanese.  During the turbulent period of World War II and the subsequent Korean War, many of these mines were destroyed but at least one concession, the OCMC, is still being operated, to a degree, by North Korea.

We will examine these various mining concessions using the miners’ personal correspondences and photographs as well as family histories, memoirs, maps, records books, and even a home movie taken in 1930. 

Robert D. Neff is a freelance writer and historical researcher specializing in Korean history during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  His writings have appeared in various newspapers, magazines and books including: Korea Through Western Eyes, Westerner’s Life in Korea, Letters from Joseon, Brief Encounters, Royal Asiatic Society Transactions, Korea Times, Korea Herald, Jeju Weekly and 10 Magazine.

We hope that many of you can come.

Elisabeth Chabanol
Key-young Son
Brother Anthony

Asiatic Research Institute (Room 310)

Take Exit 1 from Korea University subway station, 
turn right onto the footpath leading up onto the campus.
Walk straight up the road past LG Posco Hall, the Business School and Main Library (all on the right hand side).
The Asiatic Research Institute is the building next after the Library
(Building 39 on the Campus Map )

After 6 pm the front door of the Institute will be locked, so please try to arrive a little earlier. If the door is locked, please wait for somone to come out so that they can let you into the building. Or call Brother Anthony, 010-8979-8301.

We will go somewhere for supper at the end of the colloquium.

Seoul Colloquium in Korean Studies

The Seoul Colloquium in Korean Studies is jointly organized by the Seoul Center of the ÉFEO and the Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch (RASKB). Everyone interested in Korean Studies is welcome, please share this information. No registration is needed. 


Contact Us

Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch
Room 611, Korean Christian Building, Daehak-ro 19 (Yeonji-dong), Jongno-gu, Seoul 03129
[03129] 서울시 종로구 대학로 19 (연지동) 한국기독교회관 611호

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Phone (02) 763-9483 FAX (02) 766-3796

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