Articles

The Life and Times of Harry Chang: Builders in Early Modern Korea (1880s-1910s)

At the turn of the twentieth century, Seoul was filled with a variety of contractors and craftsmen from abroad. The Qing community in particular was thought to have had “control [of] the foreign building trade in Korea,” yet Japanese and Korean builders also exerted significant influence over the penninsula’s early modern urban centers.1 Architectural characteristics and materials from various cultures were rather suddenly found in the ports and in the capital city, disrupting a previously homogeneous Joseon landscape.

Little is known of the hands that physically reshaped cities like Seoul, or built from the ground up places like Chemulpo. Their names were typically only mentioned in passing, if ever. Even the works of more notable individuals sometimes remain shrouded in mystery. Amidst the numerous carpenters, masons, and contractors peddling their services on the peninsula, one such man, known only as Harry Chang, had a significant impact on Seoul’s still young construction industry. It was individuals like Chang that helped tangibly shift the urban aesthetic of Korea, making manifest the plans of those who sought to improve, change, and otherwise alter its landscape.

Chang was a Chinese immigrant who probably arrived in Korea from either Shanghai or Tianjin. Said to have come with the family of Owen Nickerson Denny,2 a legal advisor who served in the Home Office and Foreign Affairs departments of the Korean government from 1886 to 1890, he might have set foot in Chemulpo sometime between April and May of 1886.3 Chang worked in the Denny household until 1890, at which time Denny left his government post. With Chang free to pursue other things, it was said that he took up a servant position at the American legation where he learned English.4 His career in construction reportedly came about during this decade when he “learned the building trade by working with contractors for foreign houses and familiarized himself with all parts of the work.”5

Like so many other minor characters in Korea’s history, the details of Chang’s life are murky at best. Many of the reports about him are currently unverifiable, including the account of his arrival with the Dennys, yet his work as a successful contractor is the one point that remains consistent across all accounts. Following in the footsteps of other Qing compradores, merchants, and entrepreneurs, Korea would become a land of opportunity for this Chinese contractor.

The first known mention of him as a building contractor was in Oliver R. Avison’s memoirs regarding Severance Hospital. Chang was initially hired for the project, a large task for a then modern building that he wasn’t entirely qualified to work on.6 After handling construction preliminaries around 1902-1903, the price of building materials exploded when the Russo-Japanese War broke out in the following year. The new prices would bankrupt Chang, and, according to Avison, despite the Chinese contractor offering to complete the project anyway, Avison released Chang from his contract since the “loss would almost ruin him”.7 The hospital was instead completed in 1904 under the supervision of Henry Bauld Gordon, the architect, and Avison.

 

Figure 1. Cropped from an early photograph depicting Severance Hospital and surrounding property. Undated, circa 1900s-1910s. Source: Presbyterian Historical Society.

It was around this same time that Horace Grant Underwood’s brother gifted he and his wife, Lillias, with an impressive three-story home on the southwestern outskirts of Seoul. The first, unnamed Chinese contractor in charge botched aspects of the project, reportedly attempting to cheat the Underwoods on materials, labor, and time.8 Chang was then brought on to finish the house, completing it around 1904. In writing of her husband’s work in Korea, Lillias Underwood described him and Chang as having the “warmest respect and good will” towards each other, becoming friends “for nearly thirty years” due to Chang’s “kindness”.9 It was perhaps relationships like this that allowed Chang to become better connected to the Presbyterian community, earning him job security for years. To be clear, not only was he contracted out for the construction of the Sai Moon An Church in Seoul, which was under the ministerial leadership of H. G. Underwood, but he became involved in the Y.M.C.A. building expansion in the early 1910s and the construction of Chosen Christian College [Yonsei University] in the late 1910s.10 One brief, however informative, Presbyterian account suggests Chang’s name had become “connected with most of our churches, homes and schools of the better sort”, leaving us to wonder what other projects he may have had his hands in.11

Figure 2. The Underwoods’ home outside Seodaemun, completed around 1904 with Chang as the building contractor. Source: Cropped from a photograph taken around 1904 by George Rose, courtesy of Rob Oechsle collection.
Figure 3. An advertisement showing the services Harry Chang could provide. This includes, if the ad is to be believed, the rare luxury of plumbing. It is perhaps noteworthy that Chang was unable to install the plumbing at Severance Hospital just a few years prior to this ad’s publication. Source: The Korea Review, January 1906. Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

It was said that Chang belonged to a “sect of Baptists in China”, suggesting he was a moral, religious man.12 The Chinese contractor was well-liked for his giving spirit, occupying “a warm place in the hearts of Christian natives and missionaries”.13 Most accounts point to him being generous with his time, efforts, and money, with one calling him the first to always aid in times of cholera, famine, and suffering. When funds were being raised for the expansion of the Y.M.C.A. in Seoul, Chang reportedly donated the amount of 1000.00 yen to help the cause — perhaps also becoming the contractor for the build. In the case of the construction of Sai Moon An, which had initially faced financial issues, it was said that Chang volunteered to begin work without a down payment of any kind, offering to allow the church to pay him back in monthly installments as they could.14 The large, brick church — a simple structure that attempted to imitate the Romanesque style — was completed in 1910 and dedicated on May 29th.15

Figure 4. An unfortunately poor image of Sai Moon An church, which would be romanized today as Saemunan (새문안). Source: Charles Edwin Bradt, et. al., Around the world; studies and stories of Presbyterian foreign missions (Wichita: The Missionary Press Co., 1912). Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

The trust that Underwood placed in Chang for this church is perhaps reflected in his November 1910 account of the project, indicating that the final structure became a direct result of Chang’s building recommendations. The church leaders wanted to erect a cheaper, temporary structure to allow for gradual growth, opting instead to follow Chang’s advice of building a full, permanent building as his estimates showed the financial loss would be roughly the same in either case.16 “The Chinese contractor”, Underwood wrote, “set to work in a very short time, finished it some little while before the contracted date, and we were able to enter our new church earlier than we anticipated.”17 During the dedication, a Korean elder speaking at the ceremony was sure to publicly address Chang’s generosity in trusting the church to pay him back.18

While much of his life and death remain a mystery (even his true name is unknown), the story of Harry Chang is somewhat unique in that there is so much remaining information on such a minor historical player. After all, his name was left behind and the names of others were not. By finding a niche in the construction market and catering to a certain Christian clientele, he was able to make a name for himself and work on some very important building projects. On the other hand, he was probably not unlike other builders on the peninsula, working hard to carve out a living for himself in a newly open Korea. The life of Chang sheds some light on the matter of what it might have been like for a contractor from the Qing community to live and work in Korea. Though successful, Chang was only one of the many Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, and Westerners who were involved in the architectural shift and reformation of Joseon Korea. It is through this lens, and through the eyes of Harry Chang, that we may try to re-examine what it was like to be a builder during that period, exploring why early modern Korean cityscapes looked the way that they did.

 

Figure 5. The only known image of Harry Chang. Source: The Korea Mission Field, April 10, 1911. Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

Chang would have been in competition with a number of other contractors by the mid 1900s, although he seems to have been unique in that he had gained some job security by becoming Underwood’s go-to builder. Unlike new-arrivals, Chang also had the benefit of hindsight in that he was able to experience the frontierism of the late 1880s and early 1890s — an encroaching frontierism that affected Seoul and built from the ground-up Chemulpo. To be sure, English-language accounts paint a frenzied picture in which a young, newly-formed principal port and a fast-changing capital city were being swamped with new labor, perhaps upending the traditional Joseon guild system in the process. People like Chang were able to side-step this system by providing “foreign buildings” that, in those days, locals were ignorant of.19

One account from the turn of 1890-1891, written by British explorer Henry Arnold Savage Landor, highlights the clamor of this early modern construction industry, perhaps implying that merchants were quick to assume any Western personality entering the peninsula may have been there as an entrepreneur, investor, or capitalist in need of building services. Landor, in an exaggerated style, wrote of being bombarded on New Year’s Day by carpenters, roofers, masons, and others peddling their services in Chemulpo.20 It was craftsmen and laborers like these that brought momentum to the chaotic reformation of the peninsula’s urban centers. To understand this in practical terms, a look at several select accounts involving the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean communities do something in furthering our knowledge of building during these first decades.

The catering-to of Westerners was perhaps most apparent around the legation district in the 1900s. There, in Jeong-dong, Chinese contractors were setting up shop, with Chang’s work becoming an extension of the Qing community’s knack for making “foreign” buildings. Even English-language advertisements were being printed for Chinese construction companies, with Wing Fat & Co. situated near Wongudan and the Loong Chang company strategically based directly in Jeong-dong. Compradoric architecture was alive and well in Korea, made manifest by Chinese companies acting as project managers that could “build you a house and furnish it from roof to cellar”. These English advertisements were a response to the growing construction demands of Seoul, indicating that such companies adopted one-stop-shop business models that could meet all the construction needs a foreigner might have. The economic and commercial response to Jeong-dong’s growth was hardly limited to architecture, for a significant Chinese quarter had developed across from Deoksugung by this time (the area in and around present day Seoul City Hall plaza) with what was then referred to as “Furniture Street” or “Cabinet Street”, surrounded by chest and wares shops on what is now present day Sejongdae-ro.21

Figure 6. Advertisements for Chinese builders in Seoul. Source: Loong Chang ad from January 1905 volume of The Korea Review. Wing Fat and Kong Sing ads from November 1905 volume of The Korea Review. Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

Many accounts from the 1880s-1900s indicate Qing builders having great influence over the construction industry at the time. Some of this influence came from the community’s reputation for relatively good work in buildings that sought to imitate Western architecture. Some Chinese immigrants arriving from open ports like Shanghai and Hong Kong already had exposure to the building demands of Western personalities, and would have been able to leverage that knowledge in nineteenth century Korea. By most reports, Chinese builders in Korea were able to work faster and for less money than their Korean counterparts. To be sure, when one comparison between Chinese and Korean masons was published in 1895, it was written that of the “thirty Korean brick layers in the city [Seoul] … only three [were] skilled in the trade. They charge two yen and fifty sen to lay a thousand bricks. Chinese brick layers two yen a thousand and will lay the thousand while the Koreans lay only seven hundred. The Koreans must wake up or they will be driven to the wall in labor as well as in business.”22 Korean workers were criticized for construction stumbling blocks and mishaps — criticism that was remarkably similar to fifty-year old claims made of Chinese builders who were trying to understand what Westerners wanted in a still-developing Hong Kong.23 Years earlier in 1888, one writer in Seoul claimed that when “Corean contractors and workmen are employed, the greatest vigilance and constant supervision must be exercised to make sure that solid and reliable work [is] done.”24 Continuing further, the seemingly incensed writer briefly recounted a case in which a “half finished foreign house came down with a crash the other day, when it was nothing short of a miracle that half a dozen of the blockheaded workmen were not killed.”25 The idea that laborers needed to be constantly supervised continued into the 1910s, with anecdotes of Chinese workers being cheaper and better extending to the 1920s.26 With the importation of Western wallpaper by the early 1890s, it was noted that native Korean “paper-hangers in using foreign wall-paper in rolls have to be watched when papering foreigners’ houses, or they will cut the paper into blocks [as was tradition in Korea], since they can handle it much more easily in that shape.”27 Still in 1900 some were of the opinion that “there is no Korean capable of handling a contract,” leading such individuals to manage the building work themselves.28

Not all Koreans involved in building matters were viewed so negatively by the Western community. The Chief of the Construction Bureau of the Home Department, referred to as Namkung Uk, reportedly oversaw some of the road improvements credited to John McLeavy Brown. The chief was noted for being a careful supervisor, unique in his “honesty and faithfulness” as a government official. In a report describing his dismissal from his position for upsetting another official, he was said to have been “unlike other officials of the Government, going round the places where the work was carried on, by himself, unattended and unannounced, inspecting the materials in road-making and personally giving orders to the workmen in different matters.”29 The construction of Gojong’s new palace buildings at Gyeongungung [Deoksugung] and of the Seoul-Chemulpo Railway were similarly entrusted to Korean supervisors.30

Figure 7. Korean builders working, probably around Gyeongungung [Deoksugung] at the turn of the 20th century. Source: Moffett Korea Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
While brick could be imported, local production near Seoul and Chemulpo were largely in the hands of the Chinese community until the late 1900s, with perhaps the first known commercial brick production company, Say Shing Shing Fung Brick Manufactory, listed as a merchant in Chemulpo in 1892.31 However, Chinese kilns were also said to have been based around Yongsan, probably at the Han River where sand or clay common to Chinese brick making could be found. The published observations of French engineer M. Henri Chevalier perhaps made it increasingly clear that brick manufacturing was in the hands of Chinese clayworkers.32 Chevalier had learned of a “peculiar method of brick-burning” in Korea that resulted in blue colored bricks via “superheated steam”.33 Given the described process, which reflected centuries’ old Chinese clay firing methods for making blue brick, they may have been produced by the Qing community.34

Figure 8. A report discussing the “steamed bricks” being made in Korea. Source: The Independent, June 11, 1898. Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

The booming centers of Chemulpo and Seoul had the greatest demand for builders and construction materials, yet the cost of building projects appears to have been higher in rural areas. To be clear, missionary correspondences indicate that while the Sino-Japanese War had a negative effect on land value in Pyongyang, it was driving up the cost of building materials.35 It was even claimed that, of all the modernizing cities in Korea, building materials were the most expensive in Pyongyang at the end of 1895.36 Socio-political circumstances were not the only determinant factors for building projects, location playing an important role in the matter. The capital city, despite its ever-increasing real estate values, was sometimes cheaper to build at due to its easier access to builders and materials. In contrast, large construction projects, particularly those with a Western slant, were challenging in still-rural locales like Pyongyang. “[T]he facilities for building,” it was written, “are not nearly so good as in Seoul or the ports and as the winters here are colder – provisions for this require greater expense.”37 Reports by missionaries in rural Jeolla province suggest that they “had not only to superintend the building of [their] home[s], but the preparing of the materials, the cutting of the timber and sawing it into lumber by hand; burning the brick, for which a kiln must be made, and the burning of lime”.38 There, in the 1890s, “[building] contracts were unknown in the country[side] and there were no good carpenters and masons who knew how to build this new kind of house.”39 Even in 1900 — arguably the turning point at which a number of higher quality buildings with foreign materials became apparent — the Presbyterian mission was having a difficult time obtaining “material for building and workmen to superintend” the construction of a home in then-rural Daegu.40

Estimates on what labor cost during this period is difficult to assess in any general way. Not only did it seem to vary based on the project and location, but the specific time period played a role as conditions changed quickly in the first two decades. For example, in an 1896 publication related to the Seoul-Chemulpo Railroad, American engineer John Henry Dye provided information on the cost of local labor, noting that the “[c]arpenters, masons, stonecutters, and plasterers” who were changing the face of Korea’s urban centers “all receive about 50 cents Mexican for 10 hours’ work.”41 By 1901, wages for artisans like carpenters and masons, presumably in Seoul, had reportedly increased 50-60% from a decade earlier.42 In contrast, another account from Pyongyang in 1900 indicates carpenters there were earning twenty-five cents a day, suggesting workers in rural settings were being paid less.43

Japanese settlers and laborers, however politically in-cohesive as a group before the Russo-Japanese War, did not have an insignificant impact on Korea’s construction industry.44 It is unclear how many Japanese builders there were in Korea at this time, however reports suggest that they were in demand, with some of the workmen in Seoul and Busan being hired in connection with projects in more rural areas like Mokpo and Daegu. Some were engineers, including an individual referred to as R. Uchida who was previously involved in the Seoul-Chemulpo Railway. A printed advertisement indicated he opened an office on Lot No. 11 of Chemulpo’s General Foreign Settlement by 1899, becoming a general contractor that could survey, design, and oversee construction projects.45 Others, like a Japanese architect named Yoshizawa Tomotaro who designed the first Paichai Academy building and perhaps the Jeongdong Methodist church, were able to successfully compete with their Chinese contemporaries. There were then contractors who were merely mentioned in passing, like one referred to as S. Takanoya who shipped truss materials for a gable being added to the Bruen home in Daegu.46 One early arrival, a contractor by the name of Tanaka who was thought to have arrived in Korea around 1880, reportedly became associated with the local Korean term for “convict laborer”, the case perhaps suggestive of the personalities of Tanaka’s construction team.47 Most other contractors, like one hired for Gojong’s French-designed palace at Gyeongbokgung, remained nameless. Similarly, Japanese craftsmen like roofers, who may have had a profound impact on Korea for decades to come, went unnamed.

 

Figure 9. An advertisement for R. Uchida’s services in Chemulpo. Source: The Independent, June 22, 1899.
Figure 9. Top, 1884 settlement map of Chemulpo with Uchida’s business location marked in light blue. Bottom, present-day view of the section of Sinpo-ro 23beon-gil that Uchida’s business was located. Source: Library of Congress and Kakao Maps.
Figure 10. A rear-side view of the original Pai Chai Academy (Baejae Hakdang) building in Jeong-dong, designed by Yoshizawa. Undated, circa 1890s-1900s. Source: Moffett Korea Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

Despite being in competition with Chinese builders like Chang, Japanese workmen and contractors were not only largely responsible for the construction of Japanese settlements and the initial spread of their vernacular pan tile throughout the peninsula, but they were in charge of some of the highest quality examples of Western-imitation architecture at the turn of the twentieth century. Emblematic of this was a bank on the main street in Chemulpo. The Dai Ichi Ginko building, a handsome European-influenced building “constructed of dressed stone imported from Japan”, was thought to have probably been “the finest structure in this section” of Chemulpo at the time. “Vaults, and dungeons and secret passages,” The Independent wrote, “and all sorts of other modern conveinences to the latest bank architecture are being now constructed and just a small sample of the front is up to show what a palace it will be when finished.”48 To be sure, the building still stands today, while lesser buildings from this time reportedly fell apart in just a few years.49

Figure 11. A postcard depicting the Dai Ichi Ginko Bank in Chemulpo, built from 1898-1900. Source: International Research Center for Japanese Studies.

By 1903, the quality of Japanese builders available to the Korean peninsula improved to the point that two miniatures of sections of Nagoya Castle — an historically important castle in Japan — were to be used as market “bazars” in the Japanese settlement at Namsan.50 Referred to as “the most ambitious building [project] erected” by the Japanese community, these replicas were originally built at the Fifth National Industrial Exhibition of Japan at Osaka before being dismantled and reportedly imported to Seoul.

Figure 12. A photograph depicting the Aichi/Nagoya section of the Fifth National Industrial Exhibition of Japan at Osaka in 1903. The castle structures shown here were copied from Nagoya Castle. Source: National Diet Library [Japan].
Figure 13. A postcard from the late 1900s showing a section of the Japanese settlement at Namsan, Seoul. The magnified section of the image shows two buildings that match the description and appearance of the Nagoya Castle miniatures reportedly brought to Seoul. Source: International Research Center for Japanese Studies.

The arrival of institutional government architecture from Japan, brought in under the Japanese-led government of the late 1900s, was in many ways a harbinger of things to come.51 Yet all of this was arguably made possible by the turbulent political and socio-economic circumstances of the nineteenth century. To be clear, the early modern Korea of the 1880s-1900s was built on the backs of foreign settlers, immigrants, and a mixture of local and migrant laborers. Certainly, the modernization of Gyeongungung [Deoksugung] at the turn of the century was rooted in what the Western and Chinese communities had already established around Jeong-dong. Similarly, the Japanese settlement at Namsan — previously a muddy, unwanted section of Seoul — would not have been reimagined as a second Ginza without the initial development of its settlers. Politics, commerce, and government were partially responsible for these changes, but were made manifest by people like Harry Chang. And while Chang may be a somewhat historically insignificant individual, his work was, in a way, an extension of the work of other immigrants, helping illustrate just how important minor builders were to the shaping of early modern Korea.



Author’s Note: Accounts of missionary construction were largely excluded from this essay. This is not to say Christian missionaries had an insignificant impact on the Korean landscape — far from it. However, they generally built for non-commercial reasons. And while in many early cases they did the physical labor of construction themselves, they could not be hired as builders and were building churches, schools, etc, for their own purposes. Also excluded from this essay is a discussion of better-known architects and engineers as the purpose is to attempt to explore what it was like to have been a lesser builder in Korea at the time, and to try to give some kind of sense of what the construction industry was like. More accounts of Western builders will be explored in future essays.




Footnotes and Citations

1 B. L. Putnam Weale, The Re-shaping of the Far East (New York: McMillian Company, 1905), 532.
2 “By Their Works Ye Shall Know Them,” The Korea Mission Field, vol. 7 no. 4 (April 11, 1911), 103. Moffett Korea Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary.
3 Robert R. Swartout, Jr., “Journey to Old Korea: The 1886 Diary of Gertrude Hall Denny,” Transactions, vol. 61, 41. On his way to Korea, O. N. Denny stopped at Shanghai and Tianjin. When his wife came separately, she also stopped in Shanghai, bringing with her an “Amah, a boy, a tailor, & a washman.” Could one of these individuals been Harry Chang?
4 O. R. Avison, “Building the Severance Union Medical College and Hospital,” Dr. Avison’s Memoirs (c.1940-1941), 438-439. Unpublished manuscript. Samuel H. Moffett Manuscript Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
5 O. R. Avison, “Building the Severance Union Medical College and Hospital,” Dr. Avison’s Memoirs (c.1940-1941), 439. Unpublished manuscript. Samuel H. Moffett Manuscript Collection. Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
6 Note that according to Avison, Chang had no experience with plumbing and heating systems. O. R. Avison, “Building the Severance Union Medical College and Hospital,” Dr. Avison’s Memoirs [c.1940-1941], 439. Unpublished manuscript. Samuel H. Moffett Manuscript Collection. Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
7 O. R. Avison, “Building the Severance Union Medical College and Hospital,” Dr. Avison’s Memoirs [c.1940-1941], 439. Unpublished manuscript. Samuel H. Moffett Manuscript Collection. Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
8 Lillias H. Underwood, Underwood of Korea (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1918), 226-227.
9 Lillias H. Underwood, Underwood of Korea (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1918), 226-227.
10 This will be expanded on in future essays. Stay tuned. In short, the architect of Chosen Christian College mentioned Chang in at least one of his letters, and Chang’s donation to the Y.M.C.A. is found a couple of missionary publications.
11 “By Their Works Ye Shall Know Them,” The Korea Mission Field, vol. 7 no. 4 (April 11, 1911), 103. Moffett Korea Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary.
12 “By Their Works Ye Shall Know Them,” The Korea Mission Field, vol. 7 no. 4 (April 11, 1911), 103. Moffett Korea Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary.
13 “By Their Works Ye Shall Know Them,” The Korea Mission Field, vol. 7 no. 4 (April 11, 1911), 103. Moffett Korea Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary.
14 H. G. Underwood, “Dr. H. G. Underwood’s Annual Report,” The Korea Mission Field, vol. 7 no. 11 (November 1, 1910), 286.
15 Letter from H. G. Underwood to J. A. Brown, January 6, 1910. Transcript. Moffett Korea Collection. Princeton Theological Seminary Library.; And see: H. G. Underwood, “Dr. H. G. Underwood’s Annual Report,” The Korea Mission Field, vol. 7 no. 11 (November 1, 1910), 286. 
16 H. G. Underwood, “Dr. H. G. Underwood’s Annual Report,” The Korea Mission Field, vol. 7 no. 11 (November 1, 1910), 286. Moffett Korea Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
17 H. G. Underwood, “Dr. H. G. Underwood’s Annual Report,” The Korea Mission Field, vol. 7 no. 11 (November 1, 1910), 286. Moffett Korea Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
18 “Notes from the Stations,” The Korea Mission Field (July 1, 1910), 169. Moffet Korea Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
19 See Modifying Joseon Architecture for more information on this topic.
20 Arnold Henry Savage Landor, Corea; or, Cho-sen, The Land of the Morning Calm (London: William Heinemann, 1895), 23.
21 See Terry’s guide for a reference to Sejongdae-ro as cabinet street, Terry’s Japanese Empire (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1914), 733.; see a 1902 drawing of Jeong-dong for a reference to Sejongdae-ro as furniture street, part of WORK 40/328 in National Archives at KEW.
22 “There are thirty Korean brick layers in the city, of whom only three are skilled in the trade. They charge two yen and fifty sen to lay a thousand bricks. Chinese brick layers two yen a thousand and will lay the thousand while the Koreans lay only seven hundred. The Koreans must wake up or they will be driven to the wall in labor as well as in business.” The Korean Repository, Vol.2 (Seoul: The Trilingual Press, 1895), 397.
23 For example, British architect Edward Ashworth had a lengthy anecdote published in 1851 describing the process of designing and building a house in China. This was probably in Hong Kong, where he lived between 1844-1846. However, he also made visits to Canton and Macau. According to Ashworth, his experience with the work of a Chinese contractor and laborers was a “reflection on the clumsiness and inaccuracy displayed by Chinese artisans in such simple constructions,” exemplifying the differences between English “rule work” construction and methods of native artisans in Asian localities. Edward Ashworth, “Memoranda Concerning the Erection, by Native Artizans, of an English House in China, Designed and Superintended by the English Architect”, in “Chinese Architecture”, Detached Essays and Illustrations Issued During the Years 1848-1852 (London: Architectural Publication Society, 1853), 16-18.
24 North China Herald, June 29, 1888, p. 10.
25 North China Herald, June 29, 1888, p. 10.
26 “…a Chinese carpenter or mason works 10 hours a day coming before electric lights go out and stick to work until after dark for ¥1.20 a day. A Korean carpenter or mason comes 2 hours later and quits 1/2 hour earlier not only but he would not work unless watched. He gets ¥1.80. Any wonder the Korean workmen are being gradually crowded but of employment?” Yu Chi Ho, Diary of Yun Chi Ho. Entry dated September 8, 1925. Transcript. National History Compilation Committee of Korea.
27 George W. Gilmore, Korea From Its Capital: With A Chapter on Missions (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1892), 124.
28 Letter from Graham Lee to his mother and father, June 17, 1900. Transcript. Samuel H. Moffett Manuscript Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library. 
29 “Editorial Notes,” The Independent, Vol. 2 No. 115 (September 28, 1897), 2.
30 The superintendent of the Seoul-Chemulpo Railway, for example, was named Ye Chaiyun. “Departmental News,” The Independent, Vol. 2 No. 124 (October 19, 1897), 2.
31 This company was listed in 1892, but directories such as this one took a long time to compile and were not particularly up to date. The listing of the brick manufacturer in 1892 then suggests it had already been established a year or so earlier. The Chronicle and Directory for China, Corea, Japan, the Philippines, Indo-China, Straits Settlements, Siam, Borneo, Malay States, etc. (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Daily Press, 1892), 71.
32 The Independent, June 11, 1898, 3.
33
The Independent, June 11, 1898, 3. Note that the steam may have actually been water gas. Regardless, the process of pouring water into kilns was used in traditional Chinese kilns to change the fired clay to a blue-gray color. See “China’s brick history and conservation: laboratory results of Shanghai samples from 19th to 20th century” by C.X. Shu, E. Cantisani, F. Fratini, K.L. Rasmussen, L. Rovero c, G. Stipo, and S. Vettori. 
34 See “China’s brick history and conservation: laboratory results of Shanghai samples from 19th to 20th century” by C.X. Shu, E. Cantisani, F. Fratini, K.L. Rasmussen, L. Rovero c, G. Stipo, and S. Vettori.; and see “Tile and Brick Making in China: a Study of the Yingzao Fashi” by Qinghua Guo.
35 Graham Lee, General Report of Work in Pyeng An [Province], October 1895. Transcript. Samuel H. Moffett Manuscript Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
36 Letter from Graham Lee to Robert E. Speer, December 27, 1895. Transcript. Samuel H. Moffett Manuscript Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
37 Letter from Samuel A. Moffett to Dr. Ellinwood, January 21, 1896. Transcript. Samuel H. Moffett Manuscript Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
38 Anabel Major Nisbet, Day In and Day Out in Korea (Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1920), 36.
39 Anabel Major Nisbet, Day In and Day Out in Korea (Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1920), 36.
40 Letter from Edith Parker Johnson to Dr. Ellinwood, May 3, 1900. Transcript. Samuel H. Moffett Manuscript Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
41 J. Henry Dye, “Railroads in Korea,” Railroad Gazette, vol. 29 (1896), 189.
42 The Korea Review, Vol. 1 (Seoul: The Methodist Publishing House, 1901), 118.
43 Letter from Graham Lee to his parents, March 1, 1900. Transcript. Samuel H. Moffett Manuscript Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
44 See Jun Uchida’s monograph, Brokers of Empire, which indicates pre-protectorate Japanese settlements in Korea may have been sometimes at odds with each other, and with the government in Japan.
45 The Independent, September 14, 1899, 4.
46 Letter or report from 1901 in the Henry Munro Bruen papers. Loose paper with lost title or letter head. Transcript. Samuel H. Moffett Manuscript Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
47 “About 14 years ago a Japanese contractor named Tanaka or 田中 came to Corea with a number of coolies who had his name printed on their short “Kimono.” The Coreans taking the coolies to be the meanest order of the Japanese society, began to use the term (田中) as one of reproach and contempt. In the course of years the word had become naturalized when the convict labor system was introduced last year. Then at once people applied the term to the unfortunate whom the law clothes with blue dress with black stripes on.” Yun Chi Ho, Diary of Yun Chi Ho, entry from August 28, 1895. Transcript. National History Compilation Committee of Korea.
48 The Independent, July 26, 1898, 3. The bank is thought to have been completed in 1900.
49 English-language accounts written by missionaries not only show that poor workmanship was a common issue, as stated earlier in this essay, but there were other detailed reports showing issues with buildings falling down. This will be explored in future essays. Stay tuned.
50 The Korea Review, Vol. 3 (Seoul: The Methodist Publishing House, 1903), 546. It is also important to note that the Japanese consulate at Mokpo was being described as the “one of the finest foreign buildings in Korea” at this time, though it is unclear if the brick building standing there today was the one built in 1900. The Korea Review, Vol. 1 (Seoul: The Methodist Publishing House, 1901), 73.
51 See the end of this essay, The Influence of Giyōfū Architecture and 19th Century Japan on Early Modern Korea.



The ideas, articles, and images featured here are, unless otherwise noted, the intellectual property and copyright of Nate Kornegay, 2019. All rights reserved. Some images have been used according to standard rules of Fair Use, while others are open-access materials or have been licensed or otherwise permitted to be published on this website. Images from the Nate Kornegay Collection and photographs made by the author may not be reproduced without permission.

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