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Admiral Yi Sun Shin Posted by on Jan 18, 2011 in History

Admiral Yi Sun Shin (이순신) is a respected and famous navy hero among the Korean people. There is a monument in Seoul of Admiral Yi. Around the monument is a fancy water display held in honor of Yi’s control over the Korean seas:

Admiral Yi is known for blocking Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s several attempts to invade Korea in the 1590s. Admiral Yi’s most famous legacy is the turtle ship called geobukseon (거북선). Here is a reconstruction of what it may have looked like :

The turtle ship was built with a spiky armor that covered the ship. This armor was inspired by turtles whose shells covered and protected the body of a turtle. The spikes were meant to prevent Japanese soldiers from jumping unto the turtle ship. Since the Japanese were superior in hand-to-hand combt, Admiral Yi wanted to attack from a distance and prevent his soldiers from engaging in close distance combat. Admiral Yi loaded several cannons unto the turtle ships, which prevented Japanese soldiers from coming any nearer.

Even though Admiral Yi was victorious in battle, he was deeply resented in the Korean court. The Korean king was jealous of Admiral Yi’s popularity and paranoid that he would take power once the battle was over. Taking advantage of this internal division in Korea, the Japanese government sent a spy to stir trouble in the Korean court. Admiral Yi was falsely accused of treason and imprisoned. While he was imprisoned, he was tortured and demoted as a regular solider.

The command of the navy went to another admiral and the Japanese took the opportunity to sink several Korean ships. When the news reached the king in Korea, he reinstated Admiral Yi to his former position. Admiral Yi died in the Battle of Noryang (노량대첩). His death was mourned by the entire country. Admiral Yi was a humble and charismatic leader. He captured the hearts of the Korean people at a time when the Korean king was unable to do so.

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