Lead construction of the Ulsan Refinery Plant as the technology director of Daehan Petroleum Corporation
Designed factories and exported construction technology by establishing legendary firms of Chon Engineering and Shinhan Machinery and Construction
Contributed to the systematization of chemical engineering through establishment of chemical engineering related associations
The late Min-Che Chon
President of Chon Engineering
- Academic background
Attended Kyungsung High School 1
Research assistant at Faculty of Science & Engineering at Keijo Imperial University (chemistry)
Master’s degree program at the Graduate School of Seoul National University (chemistry)
- Professional career
Chosun General Industries Co., Ltd. (General Science Research Institute prior to independence of Korea)
President of Hanmi Chemical Industry and Haelim Chemical Industry
Director and vice-president of Daehan Petroleum Corporation
President of Chon Engineering
First chairperson of the Corrosion Science Society of Korea
Representative director of Shinhan Machineries and Construction Co., Ltd. and Isu Chemical Industries Co., Ltd.
President of Chon International
First chairperson of the Materials Research Society of Korea
- Awards received
Cultural and Natural Sciences Award by Seoul Metropolitan City Government
Order of Civil Merit, Camellia Medal
Citation by Prime Minister, Stone Tower Order of Industrial Service Merit
Citation by the President of Korea
Chairman Min-Che Chonwas a pioneering engineer who led the advancement of petroleum industry in Korea by initiating the construction of Ulsan Refinery Plant and by designing numerous petrochemical plants.
He took his first step as an engineer by designing a glacial acetic acid manufacturing factory as part of the establishment of the general science research center during the Japanese occupation of Korea. By enrolling into the Chemistry Department of the National Science and Engineering Faculty of Keijo Imperial University as a research assistant, he acquired a solid knowledge of chemistry. Thereafter, he established a company and designed a factory capable of the mass production of glacial acetic acid in response to a request from a Japanese company. Building on this experience, he established Chosun General Industries Co.,, Ltd. after the independence of Korea so as to enable the full domestic production of glacial acetic acid that Korea has previously relied on imports for. He did so by designing, constructing, and operating production for glacial acetic acid. While managing his company, he also enrolled in the Graduate School of Seoul National University to pursue “research on gas-phase oxidation of acetaldehyde” so as to obtain the academic credentials necessary for further research.
He served as the engineer and business administrator who led the construction of the Ulsan Refinery Plant, which later became the center of petroleum industry in Korea. Following the Korean War, the Rhee Syngman administration appointed him as the administrator of the Chosun Petroleum Company and making the rebuilding the Ulsan Refinery Plant the foremost priority economic priority. The report he prepared, “Project of Ulsan Oil Refinery (Plan for Ulsan Refinery Plant),” contained the details of what was needed in reconstruction to increase the refining capacity, introducing the latest modernizations for the Ulsan Refinery Plant. This report was submitted to the Ministry of Trade and was then adopted by the succeeding Park Chung-hee government. Thereafter, he was appointed the technical director of Daehan Petroleum Corporation and put in charge of construction of oil refinery plants. Since all the executives appointed at the time only had military and administrative backgrounds, he was in effect put in full charge of all technology related tasks for the government. He put particular efforts in cultivation of technical staffs to lead front-line work at the plants by dispatching newly recruited members of government overseas for technology training. Upon their return after successful completion of training, he dispatched them to field work immediately to establish and build-up the initial technological system for Daehan Petroleum Corporation. This enabled the construction of the first oil refinery plant in Korea on December 14, 1963, a decade after the end of the Korean War.
After establishing ‘Chon Engineering’, a company that specialized in engineering design, and ‘Shinhan Machinery Construction’, he took the initiative in establishing the technological foundations for the petrochemical industry in Korea. Prior to commencement of work at Daehan Petroleum Corporation, he already had established, and independently operated, Chon Chemical Engineering Design, a company that specialized in the design of factories and the establishment of chemical materials manufacturers such as Chosun General Industry Co., Ltd., Hanmi Chemical Industry, and Haelim Chemical Industry. The experiences that he acquired through these companies allowed him to establish Chon Engineering after his resignation from Daehan Petroleum Corporation. Chon Engineering became a representative plant design company within very short period of time when it was delegated with design projects for various factories with a focus on the petrochemical sector by the government. He then established Shinhan Machineries and Construction to provide one-step service for the entire range of designs for the construction of industrial plants. He successfully led its growth as a global company by expanding the business into overseas markets within very short period of time.
While managing his companies, he also made tremendous efforts to nurture engineers and to promote the systematization of chemical engineering in Korea. After the establishment of Chon Engineering, he established a system of education and training to nurture field-type engineers, opening a technology training center that produced many of the technicians and engineers who would become the key figures leading the petroleum industry in Korea in later years. At the same time, he founded the Korean Chemical Society and the Korean Institute of Chemical Engineers, and put together of Korea Chemical Society to serve as a platform for the systemic development of the chemistry sector in Korea. He then realized the importance of research on materials for the development of chemical engineering. He also founded, and served as the first chairman for both the Corrosion Science Society of Korea and the Materials Research Society of Korea, thereby making significant contributions to the scholarly foundations for chemical engineering in Korea.
Chairman Min-Che Chon Korea served as a business administrator, engineer and chemical engineer who led the advancement of petroleum industry in Korea. His training as an engineer started from learning technologies on his own at worksites where he sincerely served his role as a scientific engineer, transcending the domain of business administrator. The next generation of Korean engineers and entrepreneurs express deep respect for him as the pioneer of petroleum industry in Korea and their “eternal teacher.”