An American Gold Miner in 19th Century Korea

Lecturer: 
Robert D. Neff
Date: 
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Venue: 
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
Admission: 
W10,000 (non-member); W5,000 student (with student ID; free for members

Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch lecture series

An American Gold Miner in 19thCentury Korea

In the late 19thcentury, a rush of concession hunters descended upon Korea. 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) and Tangokae (German).
 
The first and largest of these concessions was the OCMC.  The name usually associated with it is Leigh S. J. Hunt, an American businessman with a checkered but colorful past of failures and successes. Much has been written about him and the senior members of the company but we know very little about the actual miners – the men on or under the ground and how they came to be employed in Korea and, once they arrived, how they fared in the desolate northern mountains.
 
Through the hundreds of pages of letters from 24-year-old Rush McCargar to his parents (1899-1902) and supplemented by the personal histories of his co-workers, we will examine how many of the miners were hired and how they lived on the concession. It was a volatile period – the Boxer Rebellion in China, unrest in northern Korea and the constant exposure to the elements, disease, murder and accidents made life a daily adventure. But letters themselves do not present a complete picture – a large number of photographs taken by McCargar will also be used to illustrate this look at the OCMC in the 19thcentury.
 
Robert D. Neff is a freelance writer and historical researcher specializing in Korean history during the late 19thand early 20thcenturies. His writings have appeared in various newspapers, magazines and books including: Korea Through Western EyesWesterner’s Life in KoreaLetters from Joseon,Brief EncountersRoyal Asiatic Society TransactionsKorea TimesKorea HeraldJeju Weeklyand 10 Magazine.

Venue: Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace, Gwanghwamun (near Anguk Station, Exit 6; across the street from the Japanese Embassy)

 

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