The Story of Monsieur Tremoulet

Old Korea

Following the opening of Korea’s ports to international commerce in the 1880s, the Government recognized the importance of developing modern methods of mining. On September 4, 1900, the ‘Governmental Mining School’ to promote industrial education was established. The officials of the school were to be the principal, a superintendent, four trainers, an assistant trainer, and a secretary. The superintendent and the trainers would be foreigners. The plan was to develop Korean mining engineers through training by foreign mining engineers.

Mr. Tremoulet was a member of the Korean committee at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle which led him to be invited to establish the mining school in Korea. He signed a contract on October 13, 1900, and went to Korea on December 29, 1900 as the principal of the mining school. His responsibility was the supervision of the mining school, and the development of mining operations. His monthly salary was 400 wŏn (equivalent then to 1,000 French francs), and he was guaranteed a six-month vacation allowance after three years of service.

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In January 1901, he went back to France to get equipment and materials for the development of mining, and to hire mining engineers. He returned to Korea on May 22, 1901 with the mining engineer Monsieur Cuvillier and others. These men were the trainers and the engineers for the mining school.

From January 1902, the construction of the new mining school building was begun. In September 1902, M. Tremoulet began the full scale recruitment of trainees.

Materials in my collection with his name on them are as follows:

Figure 1

Figure 1. This cover has the Tae Han red overprint on the T’aegŭk 25 p’un stamp cancelled ‘Hansŏng Kwangmu 4 (= 1900) January 10. Kapchae’ cancellation. The receiver is Monsieur Tremoulet residing at Kyŏngsyŏng, Chin-gogae, P’asyŏng-gwan”.

Note 1: Although the address is written in East Asian style in columns reading right to left, the ordering of the address is the reverse of East Asian usage. The order is name of person, address, name of city, whereas the East Asian order would be the other way around.

Note 2: The address is written entirely in the Korean script Han’gŭl, but uses the older spelling conventions current at that time, for example the modern pronunciation ‘Kyŏngsŏng’ is written ‘Kyŏngsyŏng’. This is one of the former names for the Korean capital.

Chin-gogae (Chin Pass) is around the Myŏng-dong and Ch’ungmu-ro areas of modern Sŏul. At that time, the area was a Japanese commercial, pleasure, and cultural centre. ‘Pasyŏng-gwan’ was one of the first-class inns in the capital and had opened for business in September, 1895. It was a mixed Japanese and Western style hotel and was located in the area of modern Ch’ungmu-ro 2-ga, and 3 -ga. It is said that the plot to murder the Empress Myŏngsŏng, known as the Ulmi plot, was formed there. Ito Hirobumi (1841-1909), a leading figure in the Meiji Restoration and modernisation of Japan, was said to have stayed there. After the establishment of a Japanese Protectorate over Korea in 1905, he became the Japanese Resident-General.

Figure 2

Figure 2. This cover has the Plum 2 and 3 chŏn stamps with the cancellation of ‘SEOUL 2 AVRIL 01 (1901) COREE’. The recipient is Monsieur Tremoulet, and his address is given as ap’ (in front of = near) the Chong-hyŏn Catholic church. The city is given as ‘Sŏul ‘ and not ‘Kyŏngsyŏng’.

Figure 3

Figure 3. This item is an official government gazette sent to Monsieur Tremoulet whose address is given again as near the Chong-hyŏn church. The stamp is a surcharged T’aegŭk 25 p’un which has been cancelled as ‘SEOUL 16 AVRIL 00 (1900) COREE’. These surcharged stamps in red or black were used for the delivering the newspaper.

Note 3: The date on the ‘Kwanbo’ or official gazette is given as Kwangmu year 2, month 12, day 17, and that it is ‘ho-oe’, an extra or special issue. The year is equivalent to 1898.

Figure 4A (front)
Figure 4B (reverse)

Figure 4. This envelope is a very unusual philatelic example. On the front, It has nine stamps of the ‘1’ red surcharge with the Tae Han red overprint on the 5 p’un stamp of the first T’aegŭk series, as one block, plus one single stamp more, for a total of ten stamps. On the back, side, it has ten stamps of the ‘1’ red surcharge with the Tae Han red overprint, yet these are on the second T’aegŭk series as a block, for a total of ten stamps.

It is very unusual to have ten stamps each of Scott 16A and Scott 16AB together . All the stamps are cancelled with the ‘SEOUL 16 AVRIL 00’ cancellation.

The recipient is Monsieur Tremoulet whose address again is given in Korean as near Chong-hyŏn church. But the French address identifies him as the ‘Commissaire Exposition’. This might refer to his role as a committee member of 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle for on the Korean side. Was he the ‘Commissaire Exposition’ of the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle where Charles Aleveque was the Korean Government representative for the same exposition ? This is uncertain.

One more Interesting thing here is that the sender’s address in the upper the right-hand corner states that it is from the Ministere de l’Agriculture, du Commerce et des Travaux Publics, Direction Generale des Postes The letter was for inland use. Why did it have so many stamps on it ? Had it really been sent by the office of the sender’s address ?, or did Monsieur Tremoulet himself make this cover for his own collection ? This also is unclear. But any way, this is a very special example from a collection of old Korean stamps.

This item comes with a 2017 Philatelic Foundation Certificate.

Figure 5

My other collections can be seen at:


Dr. Joel Lee
Born in Korea, Vietnam war participation as ROK marine, Dr. of Ministry, Retired Presbyterian Pastor. 40 years collected for Korea stamps 1884-1905.

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