Korean Language Blog

Korea’s Greatest Military Leaders Posted by on Apr 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

There are always a few individuals who have placed the welfare and safety of the Korean nation before themselves. These notable people are generals, admirals, or military commanders who have risked their lives to protect the Korean nation from being invaded and ultimately destroyed. There are too many of these selfless individuals to list, but here are some of history’s greatest Korean military leaders.

Kim Yushin (김유신) is known as one of the great Korean generals that unified the three kingdoms of Korea as one entity. Kim Yushin was a general from the Silla (신라) Kingdom. He subdued the Baekje (백제) and Goguryo (고구려) Kingdoms by forming an alliance with the Tang Dynasty of China. Once Baekje and Goguryo were under Silla control, he forced the Tang troops out of Korea. Thanks to Kim Yushin’s leadership, the Korean peninsula became a unified country.

Kwon Yul (권율) was the commander in chief of the Korean forces during the Japanese invasions of 1592-1598 (임진왜란). Kwon Yul is especially remembered as the victor in the Battle of Haengju (행주대첩). In the Battle of Haengju, the Korean forces numbered at around three thousand, but they were still able to drive away the thirty thousand Japanese troops that were in Haengju. Kwon Yul is remembered for the risk he took to push the Japanese out; despite the great odds against him.

Yi Sun Shin (이순신) is Korea’s greatest naval commander. His victories against the Japanese secured the Korean borders. Yi Sun Shin was a brave leader who sacrificed his life in battle. He died in the Battle of Noryang (노량대첩), which was the final and decisive battle that caused the Japanese to retreat. Admiral Yi Sun Shin is remembered not only for his victories, but for his personal demeanor as well. His peers and his men respected him for his patriotism to the country and for his selflessness.

Eulji Mundeok (을지문덕) is remembered for defending the Goguryeo Kingdom against the Sui Dynasty of China. In the Battle of Salsu (살수대첩), the Sui army consisted of over one million men. Eulji’s forces were much smaller, but he devised a strategy where he reduced the flow of water with a dam. When the Sui army crossed the Salsu River, Eulji opened the dam and the Sui soldiers drowned. Through Eulji Mundeok’s efforts, the Sui Dynasty was prevented from expanding into the Korean peninsula.

Gang Gam Chan (강김찬) is remembered for defending Goryeo (고려) territories against the Liao Dynasty. In the Battle of Guju (구주대첩), Gang Gam Chan damned a stream and released the waters when the Liao troops tried to cross a river. He then blocked supplies from going to the Liao troops, and led several guerilla campaigns against the Liao army. Exhausted and weary, the Liao army retreated at the Guju vicinity.

All these Korean military leaders helped to keep Korea from becoming an annexed territory to other nations. If it weren’t for these military leaders, Korea may not have become an independent nation free from foreign control.


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