“Before 1900 Korea had a relatively backward agricultural economy. For centuries most Koreans lived as subsistence farmers of rice and other grains and satisfied most of their basic needs through their own labor or through barter. The manufacturing of traditional Korean wares — principally cloth, cooking and eating utensils, furniture, jewelry, and paper — were produced by artisans in a few population centers.
“Following the annexation of Korea in 1910, Japan thrust a modern blend of industrial capitalism onto a feudal agrarian society. By the end of the colonial period, Japan had built an extensive infrastructure of roads, railroads, ports, electrical power, and government buildings that facilitated both the modernization of Korea’s economy and Japan’s control over the modernization process.”
– South Korea: A Country Study, edited by Andrea Matles Savada & William Shaw, 1997
“The Keijyo Electric Co. is the most important concern of its kind in Chosen; its operations include the supplying of commercial electricity and gas for the city and suburbs of Seoul (called Keijyo by the Japanese). The company was originally owned by American interests, but some years ago was purchased and taken over by Japanese capital. After the company was taken over it was first known as the Nikkan Gas and Electric Co., but the name was recently changed to that just given.
“There are 16.6 miles of route, with 28.6 miles of all track, all of which is of 3-ft.-6-in, gauge. Details of the earnings were not available, but sufficient data were obtained to indicate that while the gas and electric operations may be profitable the tramways are not carrying their part of the interest and dividend charges. There is one power house for the general supply of current, with one substation in addition for the conversions of tramway power.
“The rolling stock consists of 79 motored passenger cars, 6 motored and 6 trailer goods cars, and 2 sprinklers. This rolling stock, including trucks and electric equipment. is largely of American manufacture. When the writer visited Seoul in July, 1917, there were 6 new cars under construction in the company’s own workshops, the equipment for which had already been received from America. It was desired to build more cars, but these were held up on account of the difficulty in obtaining equipment and the high prices prevailing.
“The head office of this company is at Tokyo, Japan, but Mr. I. Murao (Japanese) is chief engineer, located in Seoul, and has general charge of the tramways, including the handling of purchases that are made locally. Many of these are from the strong Japanese commercial and engineering branches in Seoul, as referred to in connection with the Korean railways.”
– The Tramways of the Far East, by Frank Rhea, The Far Eastern Review, August 1920