Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) has retrieved rare historical documents on Hansung Electric, the nation’s first utility.
KEPCO said that the company received historical records on the nation’s electricity use, owned by descendants of Harry Bostwick, an American business partner of Hansung Electric. KEPCO President Cho Hwan-eik and Wendy Sadler, a granddaughter of Harry Bostwick, Griffth Williams III, a grandson of Harry Bostwick, participated in a ceremony to mark the donating of the historic documents at KEPCO headquarters in Naju, Jeollanam-do, on May 17. As part of KEPCO’s efforts to trace the historical roots of Korea’s electricity use, a research team, led by Prof. Oh Jin-suk of Pai Chai University toured the United States and found the documents.
The rare documents, hitherto unknown, include letters from King Gojong of Joseon Dynasty, also dubbed as Emperor Gwangmu of the Korean Empire. They are expected to contribute greatly to shedding light on the history of Korea’s electricity use. KEPCO has changed its founding anniversary day to Jan. 26 to coincide with the day of the establishment of Hansung Electric on Jan. 26, 1898. The year 2017 marked the 119th anniversary of the founding of Hansung Electric.
KEPCO has been striving to retrieve the historical facts on the whole of ancient Korean utilities, including Hansung Electric, Hanmi Electric and Kyungsung Electric.
These documents show that an application to establish Hansung Electric, submitted by Kim Doo-sung and Lee Keun-bae on Jan. 26, 1898, was approved by the Agriculture and Commerce Ministry.
(left) Hansung Electric was a private company on the surface, but it was an imperial company wholly invested by King Gojong, also dubbed as Emperor Gwamgmu of the Korean Empire. (right) Lee Chae-yeon, who served as president of Hansung Electric.
Hansung Electronic headquarters building.
Inside views of Korea's first Dongdaemun Power Plant.
A letter sheet carrying the logo of Hansung Electric, used by Collbran and Bostwick.
A letter inviting an event to open electric facilities, which was issued in the name of Collbran and Bostwick. A letter inviting Bostwick with Hanmi Electric to a birthday event of Emperor Gwamgmu.
Hansung Electric was established after obtaining approval for an application to establish the company, submitted by Kim Doo-sung and Lee Keun-bae, from the Agriculture and Commerce Ministry.
Harry Bostwick was a business partner of the American joint venture, Collbran & Bostwick Co. Harry Bostwick, who served as general manager of Hansung Electric, was virtually responsible for management.
In May 1899, Hansung Electric launched an electric street service between Dongdaemoon and Shinmoonro, Hansung, the ancient name of Seoul, and the company lit electric lamps in Jongno, the first privately owned ones in Korea.
“The Korean Empire had demonstrated its ability as an electric lamp was lit at Gyeongbok Palace Hansung Electric eight years after Thomas Edison created the light bulb and Hansung Electric, Korea’s first global utility, was established with a combination of King Gojong’s investment and the United States’ advanced technology,” KEPCO President Cho Hwan-eik said. He expressed expectation the securing of the documents will enable them to pinpoint the roots of Korea’s electricity history. KEPCO is not sparing any efforts to provide continuous support so that the documents, the nation’s assets, can be made public to the general public for research, Cho added.
(left) Wendy Sadler, a granddaughter of Harry Bostwick, an American business partner of Hansung Electric. (right)Griffith Williams III, a grandson of Harry Bostwick.