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The Municipalization Movement of the Electric Industry and the Gyeongseong Electric Co. during the Early 1930's

  • The Review of Korean History
  • 2009, (94), pp.177-216
  • Publisher : The Historical Society Of Korea
  • Research Area : Humanities > History

JINSEOK OH 1

1배재대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper examines the evolution and characteristic of the municipalization movement of the Gyeongseong Electric Co. (hereafter GEC) during the early 1930's. The GEC supplied electricity, gas, streetcar operations and other services as a monopoly, pursuing an “excessive” profit-seeking strategy. The excessive nature of their strategy was apparent in the defective equipment, frequent malfunctions, and rudeness of workers that was suffered by their customers. A call for municipalization [gongyeonghwa] of the GEC appeared between industrial capitalists, and municipalization plan passed the Gyeongseong City Council [Gyeongseongbuhoe]. From the viewpoint of the GEC, municipalization became a matter of whether the firm would continue to exist or not. The GEC prepared various countermeasures to defeat the municipalization plan. The GEC turned management of its general affairs over to the Gyeongseong City Council and put pro-GEC politicians on the council. It also mobilized friendly media outlets to mobilize public opinion that was skeptical about the proposed municipalization while the Joseon Electric Association [Joseonjeongihyeophoe] expressed opposition to the municipalization. The GEC also used the establishment of the electric power control policy of the colonial government to obstruct the municipalization movement. As a result of all these efforts, the GEC succeeded in preventing municipalization. Behind the powerful lobbying power of the GEC were the Minister of State for Political Affairs Imaida [今井田淸德], Governor of Gyeonggi Province Matsumoto [松本誠], and the Mayor of Kyeongseong Inoue [井上淸]. The failure of the municipalization of the GEC was not a result of the establishment of the electric power control policy, but a result of the persistent lobbying power of the GEC, an exemplar of monopoly capital. This case study shows the depth and breadth of the political and social power of monopoly capital during the Japanese colonial period.

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