[Hallyupedia] Yeontan (연탄)

연합뉴스 / 2021-12-26 07:00:51
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by Ra Hwak Jin / Cha Min Kyung / An Hayeon 


[ENG] A cylindrical briquette made by mixing coal dust


▲ This photo, provided by the National Archives of Korea, shows a yeontan delivery man in 1962. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)



Yeontan, a briquette made by mixing coal dust in a cylindrical shape using anthracite as its main ingredient, usually has several holes leading up and down to help burn well.

Yeontan is also called "gugongtan" or "shipgugongtan," depending on the number of holes that appear on the piece of briquette.

These days, regular briquettes that can be used at home have 22 holes, however, a specific name for a 22-hole yeontan does not exist.

Yeontan is originally black, but after burning it turns into an ivory shade.

When counting yeontan, "jang" is used as the unit of measure, and the weight of a single yeontan in the household is 3.6 kg when first taken, 3.3 kg or more even if it is dry, 142 mm in height, 150 mm in diameter, and 4,400 to 4,600k in calories.

Yeontan has been widely used for warming up inside houses since the 1950s due to their strong thermal power, long period of burning, convenience, and high economic feasibility.

According to the Encyclopedia of Korean Culture at The Academy of Korean Studies, the nationwide distribution of yeontan also contributed greatly to forest greenery in Korea. This is because the wood was used a lot as fuel before yeontan.

Coal was widely consumed during the 1970s and 80s. The demand for yeontan went from 11.83 million tons in 1970 and reached 20.83 million tons in 1980 and 26.92 million tons in 1986.

It is said that the number of yeontan bought by households in Seoul increased from 2.11 million in 1983 to 2.24 million in 1984 and 2.34 million in 1986.


However, carbon monoxide, generated in the process of burning briquettes, is harmful to the human body and causes death after entering the state of addiction if it contains more than 0.05 percent of the air. People, in the 1980s, treated briquette gas poisoning as a common accident that frequently occurred in winter.

As living standards improved and oil prices stabilized, briquette consumption began to decrease in urban areas, and its consumption these days has significantly decreased as the supply of the city gas has begun.

The total consumption of briquette in 2020 was 508,000 tons and has the prospect of decreasing to 500,000 in this year. 


According to the community service center called “Seoul Yeontan Bank," there are about 80,000 households that use briquettes as heating fuels in South Korea and 1,700 households in Seoul.

Furthermore, restaurants that use briquettes as fuel for barbeque, such as "briquettes bulgogi restaurants," are also thriving.

▲ This photo, provided by GSM, shows Choi Ji-man hosting a yeontan donation campaign. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 

◇ A representative winter community service, “Briquette sharing”

Considering the harsh winter in Korea, briquette, also known as Yeontan, is the top necessity for people on a low income. As a result, briquette sharing has become a representative in all kinds of volunteering.

It is often done not only by donating briquettes but also by volunteering to bring briquettes directly to the people in need.

On December 16th, Oh My Girl’s Arin donated 20,000 briquettes to people in need through the Yeontan bank in Daegu.

On December 11th, Choi Ji-man, a member of the Tampa Bay Rays in the U.S. Major League Baseball, volunteered to give out 2,500 briquettes directly to neighbors in need along with other volunteers in Dong-gu, Incheon.

Yoo Jae Seok, also known as the "charity angel", donated briquettes worth 50 million won last month through Seoul Yeontan Bank, and Hoshi, a member of the group “SEVENTEEN," also sponsored 10,000 briquettes to low-income people in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province.

It is widely known that there is an anonymous donor who sends 20,000 briquettes to the city hall every winter for 19 consecutive years to those in need in Jecheon-si, Chungcheongbuk Province.




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