Admiral Yi Sun-Shin by no doubts, the greatest figure in Korean history. To the Korean people, he is their greatest hero who saved the Korean kingdom from the brink of collapse when the Japanese forces under Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Korea in 1592. As a way to show how important he is, a national poll was conducted in 2005 in Korea, and Admiral Yi was chosen as the greatest figure in Korean history by 43.8% of the vote (The Chosun Daily, April 15, 2005). Admiral Yi was a military genius of his time for his success in naval combat. He drew comparison to two of the world’s greatest naval minds: Admiral Horatio Nelson of Britain and Admiral Heihachiro Togo of Japan. But further arguments were made that proved Admiral Yi was a different class above Togo and Nelson. All three men fought for their country, but Yi was in a different situation. Yi’s greatest military achievement was winning the Battle of Myeongnyang, which was considered to be a miracle because Yi and the Korean Navy came out victorious against 330 Japanese ships with merely 13 ships. Nelson’s most notable battle at Trafalgar and Togo’s most notable battle at Tsushima were not considered to be at the same level as Yi’s battle at Myeongnyang due to the fact that Togo and Nelson both were from nations that had a strong naval tradition as well as almost equal number of forces at the battle. Yi had to fight an impossible odd with a navy that did not have much experience or tradition. His deployment of the Crane Wing formation was also another genius tactic of naval combat.
Yi was a military genius of his time, thus, he played an incredible role to save his country that was corrupt and weak. While the Japanese forces were victorious battle after battle on land, Yi did all he can to defeat the Japanese at sea and to disrupt the supply lines to prevent supplies from Japan from arriving to Japanese ground forces stationed in Korea. Battle after battle, Yi destroyed as many Japanese ships as he can to ease the pressure on the Korean ground forces. Because Admiral Yi controlled the sea, he is the very reason why the Koreans were able to win the Imjin Wars. Why this is significant is because Unified Japan under Hideyoshi was ambitious enough to attack China with newly acquired weapons called “matchlocks” which were early predecessors to the modern gun. Using this newly acquired weapon, Japan wanted to conquer Asia 300 years earlier before the Meiji Era. I believe because of Admiral Yi’s actions, it changed how history would have played out in East Asia. If Admiral Yi was not victorious, then the Japanese would surely have conquered Korea and then moved onto the weak Ming Empire that was weakened internally as well as externally. If Japan conquered both Korea and China 300 years earlier, history would certainly have played out differently.
- Early Life and Career (slee39.wordpress.com)
- The Start of the Imjin Wars (slee39.wordpress.com)
- Admiral Yi’s fight to save his country (slee39.wordpress.com)
- Significant Battle #1: Battle of Hansando (slee39.wordpress.com)
- Significant Battle #2: Miracle at Myeongnyang (slee39.wordpress.com)
- Significant Battle #3: Battle of Noryang (slee39.wordpress.com)