Organized Session

SHOT Joint Session

In Memoriam of Aaron Stephen Moore: Infrastructure in East Asia

Organizers

Juyoung Lee

Johns Hopkins University

Hiromi Mizuno

University of Minnesota

Chair

John DiMoia

Seoul National University

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Session Abstract

This panel commemorates the work and life of Aaron Stephen Moore, whose immense contribution to the history of science and technology in modern Asia was admiringly respected by his fellow scholars. This panel sheds light on Aaron Moore's legacy through papers of four early-career scholars whose works have been largely influenced by him. Yuting Dong shows the continuity and differences of the works of imperial Japanese engineers before and after Manchukuo's foundation. Joseph Seeley examines the "crossing of the Yalu," arguing that the river was a contested zone where environment, technology, and the Cold War politics conflicted. Juyoung Lee traces how American corporate consultants negotiated with existing imperial legacy and local politics to construct fertilizer plants across postwar East Asia. Seohyun Park asks how the Soyang Dam transformed rural life in South Korea within the entangled contexts of the Cold War, postcolonial, and authoritarian nation-state. These papers examine the intersection of infrastructure, engineering, environment, and politics in 20th century Asia. Reflecting the legacy of Aaron Moore, this panel shows how developmental technology was practiced in different locales and how these practices shaped the social and physical landscapes of modern East Asia.
In addition to the paper presentations, this panel will discuss how SHOT and the HSS, as a community, could continue carrying on his work, Damming Asia. We hope this panel would serve as a chance for members of both SHOT and the HSS to remember and celebrate Aaron Moore's research, which flourished over the history of science and technology.

Presenter 1

Building Roads in Colonial Manchuria (1905-45)

Yuting Dong

Harvard University

Abstract

This paper, inspired by the discussion of imperial Japanese civil engineers and infrastructure building in Aaron S. Moore's work, explores the influence of Japanese civil engineers on road construction in Manchuria. Specifically, this paper expands the discussion of the involvement of Japanese civil engineers in colonial urban construction to the era before Manchukuo, illustrating the continuity and differences of the technological conceptions of Japanese civil engineers before and after 1932. Using road construction as an example, this paper argues that the post-1932 infrastructure construction was dominated and shaped by a new generation of civil engineers who shared a closer relationship with the military and a deeper connection with imperial universities in Japan's home islands in comparison to the pre-1932 engineers. This change in personnel inspired a new way to perceive the relations between imperial engineers and nature as well as the local communities, especially Chinese communities. Notably, these civil engineers reoriented the source of technical expertise from communication with local communities to one that developed out of military concerns and the direct study of an abstract and empty natural environment.
This paper uses biographical data, personal narratives and governmental and private documents. The training background of these engineers is based on a database that I built using data from the Staff Directories (shain roku) of Mantetsu and Blue Books (shinshi roku) which were published between 1905 and 1937. This paper also uses writing contained in several magazines published by these civil engineers in Manchuria.

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Presenter 2

Engineering the Korean War "Crossing of the Yalu"

Joseph Seeley

University of Virginia

Abstract

Seven decades ago, heady American ambitions to unite the Korean peninsula under non-Communist rule floundered on the banks of the Yalu River. In 1950, as American and South Korean forces marching under the banner of the United Nations approached this watery border between China and North Korea, officials in the People's Republic of China made the fateful decision to intervene in the Korean War. Popular and academic retellings of the Korean War describe this "crossing of the Yalu" as one of the conflict's most decisive historical moments. Yet for all the symbolic significance this river crossing has come to assume, scholars have had surprisingly little to say about how it actually occurred.

Drawing on a wide variety of sources, including the recollections of Chinese soldiers as well as Japanese and American intelligence reports, this paper-inspired in part by Aaron Moore's study of WWII-era Yalu dam construction-highlights the environmental and technological factors behind the PRC's Yalu River crossing. It recovers the river border's importance as more than just a site of initial intervention, but as a dynamic riparian landscape where fragile individual lives and the destinies of Cold War nations collided throughout the Korean War and beyond. Amidst repeated aerial bombardments by UN fighter planes, Chinese forces repaired bombed railroad bridges, constructed makeshift pontoon bridges, or walked across the river ice during the long Korean winter. At the same time, the Yalu River itself intervened to challenge PRC military campaigns with its periodic flooding and other forms of unruliness.

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Presenter 3

Corporate Consultants and Chemical Fertilizer Plants in Postwar East Asia

Juyoung Lee

Johns Hopkins University

Abstract

Mass production of chemical fertilizers has been acclaimed as an essential contributor to the successful Green Revolution in postwar decades. In East Asia during this period, chemical infrastructures built by the Japanese empire went through renovations under the influence of the new Cold War superpower, the United State. Building on the works of Aaron Moore that explored multilateral development networks in Asia, this paper examines the role of corporate consultants in postwar (re)construction of chemical fertilizer plants across East Asia. One such consulting corporation was the Chemical Construction Corporation (CCC), which participated in the expansion of Kaohsiung Ammonium Sulfate Plant in Taiwan, the construction of Sumitomo Chemical's urea fertilizer plant in Japan, and the preliminary engineering survey of Chungju Fertilizer Plant in South Korea. Although the CCC was an American company, CCC had to work within personal networks, landscapes, material limitations that were already established during the Japanese imperial rule. The CCC also had to take local economic, political, and geographical disputes into considerations. Through the circulation of the CCC experience from one country to another, however, the former colonial network of chemical industry was reshaped into a new network of infrastructure construction that stretched over East Asia and the US. By examining archival documents, reports and correspondences written during the specific practices of planning, I argue that private actors played a crucial role at different levels of governances to enable multilateral infrastructure construction in East Asia.

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Presenter 4

Technological Intervention in Rural Life: The Soyang Multi-purpose Dam Construction in Postcolonial Korea

Seohyun Park

Virginia Tech

Abstract

In 1973, the Soyang Multi-purpose Dam was completed on the North Han River in Korea as Asia's largest rock-fill dam. Aaron Moore examined this national construction project as "assemblages of power," in which Japanese engineers reconfigured their transnational networks that had been organized through colonial massive infrastructure-building projects. Building on his approach, this paper shifts attention towards the impact of the Soyang Dam's construction on rural communities. Drawing on sources collected from archival sites in Korea, this paper illuminates how state engineers localized power relations. Based on newly emerged hydrological knowledge, state engineers rationalized that dam construction was a technological intervention in the natural environment to turn uncontrolled nature into national resources. In practice, however, dam construction also transformed the lives of rural people. Construction work generated noise as well as light pollution due to heavy equipment and the use of artificial light for midnight labor. This messiness confused the biorhythm of the chickens in a poultry farm which resulted in low productivity and death. The submergence by the dam expelled dairy farms from the region, causing them to lose their relationships with the communities that had existed for years. As a result of this dam construction, eighteen thousand people lost their homes, and those who remained suffered economic difficulties. This rural hardship was legitimized by citing that large reservoirs would turn affluent natural graces in "our" favor. This paper consequently articulates that national infrastructure construction manifested power relations from the local to international in the form of hydrological knowledge.

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