I’m back once again to this question of electricity and power in its various forms, as I think the long-term story of generating power in NE Asia (1880’s-present), and specifically on the Korean peninsula, sheds some interesting light on the transnational history of the contested region, this in distinct contrast to the individual national histories of power industries. I would love to be able to link: (1) electrification (late 19th century), to (2) the colonial period (especially the hydroelectric power plants in the North along the Yalu and Tumen), to (3) the electrical showdown / cutoff of May 1948 (North stops providing access following UN elections), to (4) the period of the war and reconstruction (temporary barges, and later thermal stations), to the (5) decision to pursue atomic power (late 1950’s, with a commercial industry by the late 1970’s). For now, though, I’ll just briefly touch on the Bechtel project associated with the mid-1950’s, which covers #4.
I recently managed to get a copy of the Bechtel in-house report on the project, with three major thermal stations, completed between 1954 -1956, at Tangin-Ri, Samchok, and Masan (which was the image from my last post in August).
This map shows that the effort was an attempt to plug into the existing grid at various points in the country (roughly comprising a triangulation) in 1954. What I don’t know, and would love to know, is how much of this grid predates 1948, as I suspect much of it does.
And below is a letter of thanks from the Korean side, following completion of the project, although I have not had a chance to look this document over.
For now, this consists of little more than musing on the topic, but in the aftermath of the Recent awarding of the reactor project for the UAE (Korea and Hyundai won the bid as part of a consortium), and Lee Myung-Bak’s mobilization of the ROK domestic nuclear industry, I really want to put together something more substantive: that is, to take a long look at the history of power from the standpoint of a thorough transnational history (involving the U.S , Korea, Japan, Canada, at the very least). More on this later~