This article examines the ondol—the cooking stove–cum–heated floor system conventional to Korean dwellings—as a site of contestation over forest management, fuel consumption, and domestic life in colonial Korea. At once a provider of heat essential to survival in an often frigid peninsula and, in the eyes of colonial officials, ground zero of deforestation, the ondol garnered tremendous interest from an array of reformers determined to improve the Korean home and its hearth. Foresters were but one party to a far-reaching debate (involving architects, doctors, and agronomists) over how best to domesticate heat in the harsh continental climate. By tracing the contours of this debate, this article elucidates the multitude of often-conflicting interests inherent to state-led interventions in household fuel economies: what the author calls the politics of forest conservation in colonial Korea. In focusing on efforts to regulate the quotidian rhythms of energy consumption, it likewise investigates the material underpinnings of everyday life—a topic hitherto overlooked in extant scholarship on forestry and empire alike.

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