An oily story

Home > National >

print dictionary print

An oily story


There are records that people frequently used oil during the Goryeo Dynasty. “There is oil in Goryeo. The people there keep it in pots soaked in glue. It is black and it looks like lacquer. People there light lamps with it and it is very bright. If mixed with water, it burns more fiercely and cannot be eaten. The smoke is very dark and with the soot, they make ink. It is glossy and black like lacquer and is better than ink made from pine tree soot.” This is a passage from the “Compendium of Materia Medica” written by Li Shizhen of the Ming Dynasty. However, because Korea does not have any such records, whether it is true is questionable. In the “Personal Account of Maecheon” written at the end of the Joseon Dynasty by Hwang Hyeon, there is a reference that they used oil for the first time. “They say oil is found in the ocean, or is made from coal, or is made by boiling stones. In our country, it was first used in 1880 and it is reddish and very odorous, but can light 10 nights with 0.2 liter.” Until the annexation of Korea by Japan, it is said that the United States and Russia fiercely competed to sell their oil in Korea.

The United States is the first country that developed commercial oil fields and exported oil. The first oil field was discovered in the state of Pennsylvania in 1851. The problem was price competition. A year ago, the United Kingdom had acquired a patent for the refining process and started to distill coal to produce oil. To make a profit, they needed an economic way of digging deep into the soil. A Connecticut oil company solved the problem by developing an excavator by linking pipes. Finally, in August 1859, at 23 meters below the surface, a layer of oil was discovered. They could produce 30 barrels of oil a day. In 1861, the United States exported oil to the United Kingdom, becoming the first oil exporter in the world. At the end of the 19th century, they exported one-third of their oil to the United Kingdom, France and Germany. It is assumed that oil imported at the end of the Joseon Dynasty was also from the United States.

Today, oil is not used only for cars, airplanes and ships. Plastics, synthetics, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, medicine, film, ink, plastic bags, and asphalt are all chemical products made from oil. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that all of modern civilization is sustained by oil. However, the general forecast is that oil resources will be depleted between 2030 and 2040. The recent surge in oil prices is painful to everyone. However, high oil prices are in themselves a way of responding to the drying up of oil resources. The only long-term solution is to expediently develop alternative fuel and energy sources.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo

By Cho Hyun-wook []
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)