History Behind Taekwondo Patterns

The literal meaning of Chon-Ji is “Heaven and Earth,” which in Asia symbolizes the creation of earth and the beginning of history.Chon-Ji, or the “heavenly” lake, is a name also given to a large lake in a crater on Paektu Mountain, which is an extinct volcano that is said to have been the first home of the legendary founder of Korea, Dan-Gun.

Chon-Ji is appropriately named because creation is the beginning of all things and this pattern establishes a good foundation for all the remaining patterns.

Chon-Ji consists of two similar parts – one part representing heaven – one part representing earth.

The stances and techniques in this pattern are the basic movements required for mastering all of the 24 patterns.

This pattern was named after the legendary holy Dan Gun, who is said to have founded Korea in 2334 BC.Like most oriental countries, Korea has a legend about the origins of their people. Korea’s legend is about their descent from Dan Gun and this is still taught today to Korean school children. The legend itself goes something like this…When heaven and earth were one and when animals could speak like humans, the God Hwanin sent his son Hwang-Ung to the East to build a new country (Hwang-Ung settled in what is now called North Korea, at the highest point on the peninsula), this was in the 25th reign of the Yao Emperor in China (approximately 2333 B.C.).

One day a tiger and a bear appeared in front of Hwang-Ung and asked that they be made into human form. After great thought Hwang-Ung informed the animals that their wish could be granted, but it would be difficult and take much patience. The animals agreed that they would do whatever it took to become human.

Hwang-Ung gave the tiger and the bear 20 garlic cloves and some mugworts. They were told to eat them, stay in a cave and pray earnestly for 100 days.

After 20 days the tiger became hungry and could no longer continue, so he left the cave in search of food. But when the 100 days were almost at an end, the bear began to lose its fur and its rear feet began to change, until at the end of the 100th day the bear had fully transformed into a beautiful woman. She became known as Ung-Yo, which means “the girl incarnated from a bear”.

Hwang-Ung then married Ung-Yo, and she gave birth to a son, who was named Dan-Gun. This child gave rise to the first Korean Dynasty.

Dan Gun is said to have built the first altar on Kang-Wha Island in 2265 B.C. This altar today is atop the island’s highest peak, Muni-San, and is known as Dan-Gun’s Altar. Dan-Gun lived with his wife, Pi So-Ap, and his sons, who are said to have built the fortress of Sam- Nang at Chung-Dung Island.

In 1122 the uncle of the Shang King of China, Ki-Ja, escaped the overthrow Shang Dynasty and migrated to Korea with 5000 followers. According to the legend, after reigning for 1,211 years, Dan-Gun fled from the Ki-Ja forces to the town of Mun-Wha, resumed his spirit form, and disappeared from the earth. The shrine to the “Trinity” in Mun-Wha today contains his 410-foot circumference “grave.” The Ki-Ja assumed the rule of Korea from 1122 B.C. to 193 B.C., teaching the people Chinese culture in the form of letters, reading, writing, medicine, and art.

The date October 3rd is celebrated in Korea as a national holiday, commemorating the founding father, Dan Gun. In 1909, the legend of Dan-Gun increased in popularity in the form of the Tae-Jong-Gyo, or Great Dan-Gun Teaching. As a spiritual figure, Dan-Gun is still worshipped today as the first ancestor of the Korean people, and remains in the people’s minds the firm spiritual root of the Korean nation.

Ahn Chang-Ho was committed to preserving Korea’s educational system during the Japanese occupation. He was well known for his sincerity and lack of pretence in dealing with others. He was a farmer’s son. He abandoned traditional learning in his home town, Pyongyang, and studied for two years at a missionary school operated by the Salvation Army. He became a Christian and felt he couldn’t hate the Japanese as men. He decided to seek a source of national strength and cultivate it to regain national independence and prosperity.In 1894, at the age of 18, Ahn became a member of the Tongnip Hyophoe “Independence Association,” which promoted independence from Japan and worked to reform domestic affairs and reduce dependence upon foreign countries. But the group’s activities were interrupted by the conservative ruling class, so, Chai-pil, leader of the group, went into exile in the United States. This strengthened Ahn’s belief that Koreans themselves were to blame their failures and thus victory must come from within. He returned to his home town and established the Chomjin School, which was the first private modern school established in Korea.

Among the first Koreans to emigrate to United States in 1902 were Ahn Chang-Ho and Rhee Syngman, who was later to become the first president of the Republic of Korea. Once in the United States, Ahn established groups within the Korean community in support of the independence of the Korean people. In 1903, Ahn organized a fraternity that became the Kungminhoe (Korean National Association), which inspired Korean immigrants toward a movement for national independence. The group published a newspaper called “Kongnip Shinmun.”

Upon learning of the Japanese protectorate treaty enforced on Korea in 1906 following the Russo-Japanese war, Ahn returned home in 1907. He organized an underground independence group in Pyong–An Province called Shinmin-Hoe (New Peoples’ Association). The Shinmin-Hoe was associated with Protestant organizations and was dedicated to promoting the recovery of Korean independence through the cultivation and emergence of nationalism in education, business, and culture.

In 1908 the Shinmin-Hoe established the Tae-Song (large achievement) School in Pyongyang to provide Korean youth with an education based on national spirit. He ran a ceramic kiln to raise funds for the publications of books for young people. However, the political environment of the time was not conducive to the founding of such a school; the Japanese were in the process of actively banning education for Koreans. By denying the Korean children proper schooling, the Japanese wanted to ensure their illiteracy, thus essentially creating a class of slave workers.

Together with Yi Kap, Yang Ki-tak, and Shin Chae-Ho, he embarked on a lecture tour throughout the nation, warning of a national crisis incurred by the Japanese and urged the public to unite to resist the Japanese. Ahn repeatedly told Japanese leaders that Japan would profit much by keeping Korea as a friend rather than annexing Koreans and inviting their resentment.

By 1910 the Shinmin-Hoe had around 300 members and represented a threat to the Japanese occupation. The Japanese were actively crushing these types of organizations, and the Shinmin-Hoe quickly became a target of their efforts. In December of 1910 the Japanese governor general, Terauchi, was scheduled to attend the dedicating ceremony for the new railway bridge over the Amnok River. The Japanese used this situation to pretend to uncover a plot to assassinate Terauchi on the way to this ceremony. All of the Shinmin-Hoe leaders and 600 innocent Christians were arrested. Under severe torture, which led to the deaths of many, 105 Koreans were indicted and brought to trial. During the trial, the defendants were adamant about their innocence. The world community felt that the alleged plot was such an obvious fabrication that political pressure grew, and most of the defendants had to be set free. By 1913, only six of the original defendants had received prison sentences.

By this time, the Japanese had become fairly successful at detecting and destroying underground resistance groups. However, they were not successful in quelling the desire for freedom and self-government among the Korean people. The resistance groups moved further underground and guerrilla raids from the independence groups in Manchuria and Siberia increased.

The Japanese stepped up their assault on the Korean school system and other nationalistic movements. After the passage of an Education Act in 1911 the Japanese began to close all Korean schools. In 1913, the Tae- Song School was forced to close, and, by 1914, virtually all Korean schools had been shut down. This all but completed the Japanese campaign of cultural genocide. Chances of any part of the Korean culture surviving rested in the hands of the few dedicated patriots working in exile outside of Korea.

When Japanese governor-general Hirobumi Itoho was assassinated by Ahn Choong-gun (1879 – 1910), an independence fighter, Japan tightened its grip on Korean leaders. Finally Ahn exiled himself to Manchuria, then traveled to Siberia, Russia, Europe, and finally to the United States, along with Rhee Syngman. Rhee organized the Tongjihoe (Comrade Society) in Honolulu. In 1912, Ahn was elected chairman of the Korean National People’s Association, which emerged as the supreme organization for Koreans abroad and played an active role in negotiations with the U.S. government. During this time, he established Hungsadan, a secret voluntary group of ardent patriots.

Through these and other organizations an attempt was made to pressure President Woodrow Wilson into speaking in behalf of Korean autonomy at the Paris peace talks. Finally, in 1918, a representative of the Korean exiles was sent to these peace talks.

In 1919, when the Yi Dynasty was forcefully absorbed into the Japanese Empire, Ahn started underground activities that focused on regaining Korean independence. He returned to Shanghai in April 1919 along with Rhee Syngman and Kim Ku, where and became acting premier of a provisional government. They drew up a Democratic Constitution that provided for a freely elected president and legislature. This document also established the freedom of the press, speech, religion, and assembly. An independent judiciary was established and the previous class system of nobility was abolished. After trying in vain to narrow the differences of opinion between the leaders in Shanghai, he resigned from the post after two years.

Finally, on March 1, 1919, the provisional government declared its independence from Japan and called for general resistance from the Korean population. During the resistance demonstrations the Japanese police opened fire on the unarmed Korean crowds, killing thousands. Many thousand more were arrested and tortured.

Even after the Korean Declaration of Independence, Ahn Chang-Ho continued his efforts in the United States on behalf of his homeland. Ahn wanted to establish an ideal village for wandering Korean refugees in Manchuria and visited them in the 1920s. In 1922, he headed a historical commission to compile all materials related to Korea, especially the facts concerning the Japanese occupation.

After a bombing incident launched by Yun Pong-gil, he was arrested by the Japanese, though he was not involved in the incident. His 23-year-long fight for national independence abroad ended with his imprisonment in Taejon in 1932. After a brief release from the prison, he was arrested again by the Japanese police. With failing health, he left the prison on bail only to die in a Seoul hospital on 10 March 1938.

Won-Hyo (617-686 AD) was the noted Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism into the Silla Dynasty in 686 AD. Won-Hyo was born in northern Kyongsang Province and was said to be wise from birth. As legend has it, he was born in a forest in a Chestnut Valley under a Sal tree. The Sal tree is significant, as reference to it is usually only found in the legends of very revered figures.The official name of Won-Hyo, given to him at birth, was Sol Sedang. He derived the pen name Won-Hyo (meaning dawn) from his nickname “Sedak,” which had the same meaning. He assumed this pen name in later years after he had become more accomplished as a Buddhist philosopher and poet.

Won-Hyo began his career at the age of 20 when he decided to enter the Buddhist priesthood and converted his own home into a temple. However, Buddhism was not a popular religion in Silla at that time. Although this religion had been introduced into the kingdom of Koguryo in 372 AD and Paekche in 384 AD, the general population of Silla was reluctant to accept it.

However, this religious isolation was to change during the 7th century. At that time, Silla was at war with the kingdoms of Packche and Koguryo and was under constant invasion from Paekche. In 642 AD, it lost 40 castles to Packche attacks, including the great castle of Taeya near the capital of Silla. This atmosphere dramatically influenced the Buddhist faith of all three kingdoms. Religion became more nationalistic, which tended to intensify the ferocity of the conflicts.

To accelerate the development of this type of national spirit in Silla, King Pop-Hung wanted to officially recognize Buddhism in 527 A.D. He tried to establish it as an official state religion in the area around Kyongju. The attempt was met with strong opposition by members of the court. In 528 AD, these members of the court pressured the King into agreeing to the execution of a 22 year old monk named Ichadon to convince them that Buddhism was worthwhile religion. Ichadon’s death for his belief in Buddhism resulted in stories of his blood at the execution being white as milk. These stories made him a martyr so the King issued a royal mandate that granted freedom of Buddhist belief. Shortly afterward, Buddhism was accepted by the people. In later years, King Hun-Duk named Ichadon as one of the ten sacred monks of Silla. The study of Buddhism during the reign of King Pop-Hung required the ability to read and write Chinese, so serious study was still confined mainly to monks and the aristocratic population.

Unfortunately, not many places were open for a serious Buddhist student to study in Silla. Therefore, in 650 AD, Won-Hyo and the noted monk Ui-Sang, like other monks of the time, set out to study Buddhism in China. The overland journey took them to Liaotung in Koguryo. Mistaken as spies along the way by several Koguryo sentries, they barely escaped captivity and were able to return to Silla. There is no further record of Won-Hyo travelling to China to study, although one more attempt was made shortly after Packche was defeated in 660 AD by Silla and Tang troops from China. However, such study was not necessary because wisdom was Won-Hyo’s from birth and he did not need a teacher. Therefore, he became the only monk of his time who did not study in China.

The many monks who did study in China had a broad impact on the religious culture of the Korean peninsula. In fact, there were at least five main sects of Buddhism being practiced in Silla during this period: Kyeyul, Yulban, Chinpyo, Popsong, and Hwaom. Chinpyo and Popsong were introduced by Won-Hyo with Popsong, being based upon Hwajong-non (Treatise on the Harmonious Understanding of the Ten Doctrines) from which Won-Hyo’s posthumous title of “Hwajong Kuksa” was derived. Won-Hyo was, in fact, the most influential of the many monks of the 7th century. He used his power in an attempt to unify the five existing sects and reduce their constant sectarian rivalries.

Won-Hyo is also considered to be one of the most prolific writers in all of the Buddhist countries of his time, his works include over 100 different kinds of literature consisting of about 240 volumes. Unfortunately, only 20 works within a total of 25 volumes have survived. One of the forms he chose to use was a special Silla poetic form, Hyang-Ga, These poems were mainly written by monks or members of the Hwarang and concerned patriotism, Buddhism, and praise of the illustrious dead. Won-Hyo’s poem “Hwaorm-Ga” is said to be among the most admired of these poems.

Won-Hyo’s writing was not the only area in which he gained recognition. He was well-known both to the general population and to the members of the royal family and their court. He was often asked to conduct services, recite prayers, and give sermons at the royal court. In 660 AD, King Muyo became so interested in Won-Hyo that he asked him to come and live in the royal palace of Yosok. A relationship with the royal princess Kwa developed and was soon followed by their marriage and the birth of their son Sol-Chong.

Shortly after his son was born, Won-Hyo left the palace and began travelling the country. He was recognized as a great scholar by the Dang Dynasty of China, although he never studied there, and he was highly respected by the people of Korea. He hated that different religions argued with each other over their different beliefs, so he created his own ideology in which the conflicts between various religions could be reconciled. In 661 AD, he experienced a revelation in his Buddhist philosophy and developed the Chongto-Gyo (Pure Land) sect. This sect did not require study of the Chinese Buddhist literature for salvation, but merely diligent prayer. His belief was that one could obtain salvation, or enter the “Pure Land”, by simply praying. This fundamental change in Buddhist philosophy made religion accessible to the lower classes. It soon became very popular among the entire population. However, his most remarkable achievements were his efforts in relieving the poverty and suffering of ordinary people. In 662 AD, Won-Hyo left the priesthood and devoted the rest of his life to travelling the country teaching this new sect to the common people. Won-Hyo’s contributions to the culture and national awareness of Silla were instrumental in the unification of the three kingdoms of Korea.

Won-Hyo died in 686 AD and was laid in state by his son Sol-Chong in Punhwang-Sa temple. He had seen the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea in his own lifetime and had helped to bring about a brilliant culture in Korea through his efforts in Buddhist philosophy. He had a profound influence on quality of life in Silla and on Buddhism in Korea, China, and Japan.


Yul Gok is the pseudonym of the great philosopher and scholar Yi I (1536-1584) nicknamed the “Confucius of Korea”. The 38 movements of this pattern refer to his birthplace on the 38 degree latitude and the diagram represents a “scholar”.

Yi I was born in Pukp’yong Village, Kangnung, Kangwon Province, on December 26, 1536. Yul-Gok became his pen name and he grew into a Confucian scholar, revered as the ‘Greatest Teacher in the East.’

By the age of seven, Yul-Gok had finished his lessons in the Confucian Classics. He became a chinsa (title conferred on scholars who passed the civil service examination in the literary department) at the age of 13.

In winter of that year he passed another civil service examination called Pyolsi with the highest marks. His excellent thesis on the subject of Ch’ondoch’aek struck all the examiners with great admiration. The thesis written by Yi I was a literary masterpiece interwoven with erudite knowledge of history and Confucian philosophy of politics, also reflecting his profound knowledge of Taoism, especially the philosophy of Chuang-tzu. It was when he turned 29 years of age that Yi I passed the higher civil service examination, and his government service started in that year.

His mother’s death when he was 36 years old brought him deep sorrow. Many arguments arise on the question of Yul-Gok’s temporary renunciation of the world by secluding himself on the Diamond Mountains. He may have thought after three years of lamentation that the Buddhist phrase, “life is transient,” would ease his sorrow. He may have understood that the Confucian teaching, “Preserve your mind and nurture your nature,” was synonymous with the Buddhist teaching, “Open your mind and see your nature.” Finally, he may have regarded it as a pleasure simply to rest in the countryside, as it is said that a gentleman is fond of enjoying mountains and rivers.

Yul-Gok, at age 34, authored ‘Tongho Mundap,’ an eleven article treatise devoted to clarifying his conviction that righteous government could be realized even in his days, showing measures to achieve it and his aspirations for it. In September of the year he turned 40 years of age, he authored ‘Sohak Chibyo’ (The Essentials of Confucianism), which can be rated as a most valuable book showing examples for a good Confucian life. The Yul-Gok Chonjip (The Complete Works of Yul-Gok) was compiled after his death on the basis of the writings he bequeathed.

Pattern was named for An Joong-Gun. Very little is recorded about An Joong-Gun’s life. He only appears in Korean history briefly, but he was one of Korea’s most revered patriots.An Joong-Gun was born in 1879 in the town of Hae-Ju in Hwang-Hae Province. An’s family moved to the town of Sin-Chun in Pyong-An Province when he was about ten. He became a well known teacher and established his own school called the Sam-Heung (Three Success) School. His school, like others at that time, was destined for hardships under the Japanese military occupation of Korea and became enmeshed in a Japanese power play by virtue of its location.

In 1895, the Japanese government was determined to create a large empire that would include Manchuria and China. Korea was obviously necessary as a stepping stone for creating this empire. However, the Korean government the time was under the indirect control of the Russian government. The pressure created by this political situation caused considerable unrest in Korea. Rising tension resulted in several meetings from 1896 to l898 among neighbouring countries as well as foreign powers concerned about Korea’s future. These meetings, which included Japan, China, Russia, England, and the United States, resolved very little.

Korea was pulled further into the conflicts when turmoil erupted in China in 1900. Chinese patriots, fed up with colonial domination of their country by foreign powers, incited the Chinese population to a wave of violent riots known as the Boxer Rebellion. In response to this rebellion, the colonial powers descended upon the region in force to protect their interests. Prompted by the movement of Russian army units into neighbouring Manchuria, England established an Anglo-Japanese Alliance in 1902. A Russian French Alliance was subsequently established in 1903 followed by a movement of French and Russian in into northern Korea. Meanwhile, the Japanese saw this action as a direct threat to their claim of Korea and demanded the removal of all Russian troops from Korea. When Russia rejected in 1904, Japan initiated a naval attack. Korea, of course, claimed neutrality but was invaded nonetheless by Japan. By the autumn of 1905, Russia surrendered and Japan was firmly established in Korea. However, this invasion was not viewed as an act of aggression anywhere in the world, except in Korea.

The long-term occupation of Korea also involved the complex takeover of the Korean government. One of Japan’s leading elder statesmen of the time, Hirobumi Ito, became involved in masterminding a plan to complete the occupation and political takeover of Korea. He was named the first Japanese resident general of Korea in 1905. He was answerable only to the Japanese emperor and had the power to control all the Korean foreign relations and trade. To fulfil his duties and to keep order in the country, he was given total access to all Japanese combat troops stationed in Korea.

While still in Japan, Ito pressured the weak Korean government into signing the “Protectorate Treat” on November 19, 1905, which gave the Japanese the right to occupy Korea. After signing the treaty as resident general, Ito made every effort to keep it a secret from the Korean people. Following the ratification of the treaty, twelve Japanese commissioners were assigned to the various provinces in Korea, with one being stationed in Seoul. Later, in March 1906, Ito arrived in Korea to take the reins of power. At this time, he ordered all foreign delegations in Korea to withdraw, leaving Korea at the mercy of the Japanese. The new Japanese puppet government enacted laws that allowed Korean land to be sold to Japanese, although land generally was just taken.

The Korean people were extremely irritated under these grim circumstances. Word soon leaked out concerning the Protectorate Treaty, provoking a wave of anti-Japanese violence. Several small guerrilla groups were formed and attacked the Japanese occupation forces. One such group in Chung Chong Province armed themselves with 50 cannons and conducted a long campaign of hit-and-run actions against the Japanese. They were finally defeated, as most other groups were when hunted down by the much larger Japanese army. The general wave of unrest continued to spread very rapidly. Violence pervaded the general population, as many loyal Korean government officials committed suicide and Korean government officials who had signed the Protectorate Treaty were assassinated.

In the face of the oppression that accompanied this Japanese annexation of Korea, An Joong-Gun went into self-exile in southern Manchuria. There he formed a small private guerrilla army of approximately 300 men, including his brother. This army conducted sporadic raids across the Manchurian border into northern Korea, keeping a relentless pressure on the Japanese in this region.

The violent objection of the Korean population spread out of the country as well as into the upper levels of the Korean government. The Japanese government was unnerved by the vocal, patriotic Korean organizations, particularly those that had formed within the United States.

In June of 1907, the Korean emperor, Ko-Jong, in an effort to break loose of the Japanese control, secretly sent an emissary to the Hague Peace Conference to expose the Japanese aggressive policy in Korea to the world. When Ito found out, he forced Ko-Jong to abdicate the Korean throne on July 19, 1907, and the Japanese officially took over the Government of Korea. Severe rioting involving many Korean Army units broke out all over Korea. The Japanese responded by disbanding the Korean police force and the army, except for the palace guard. The Korean Army troops then retaliated by attacking the Japanese troops, but were quickly defeated. All Korean prisons, courts, and police units were officially turned over to the Japanese government.

Even after the defeat of the Korean troops, resistance from the general Korean public continued for many years with many guerrilla groups operating out of south-eastern Manchuria. Small groups of patriots attempted assassinating several Japanese leaders and members of the Japanese-Korean government. Because of its proximity to Manchuria, the town of Kando in northern Korea became a hotbed of such activity. Ito decided to set up a significant Japanese military and police presence in the area. However, 20 percent of the 100,000 residents of Kando were Chinese. When the Japanese began to crack down on the population of Kando, these Chinese were caught in the violence. The situation caused conflict between the Japanese and the Chinese.

In response to the increased Japanese activity in the Kando region, An Joong-Gun led his guerrilla army on a raid there in June 1909. The raid was a success, resulting in many Japanese deaths. Despite such guerrilla activities, the Japanese finally arrived at an agreement with the Chinese. The treaty, signed on September 4, 1909, allowed the Japanese to build a branch line to the Southern Manchurian Railway to exploit the rich mineral resources in Manchuria. In return, the Japanese turned over to the Chinese the territorial rights to Kando. This act of selling Korean territory to another country was the last straw for many loyal Koreans such as An Joong-Gun. He set out to his base of operations in Vladivostok, Siberia, to prepare for his assassination of Hirobumi Ito.

Russia was becoming very nervous at the level of Japanese activity in the northern Korean area and Japan’s obvious designs on Manchuria. Ito, who had officially become the president of the Japanese Senate, arranged to meet with Russian representatives at Harbin, Manchuria, to calm their fears over the Japanese intentions to annex Manchuria and invade China. The final plans for the meeting between Ito and General Kokotseff, a minister-level Russian government official were set for October 26, 1909.

When Ito arrived at the Harbin train station at 9:00 a.m. on October 26, 1909, An Joong-Gun was waiting for him. Knowing full well that he would never escape alive, and that torture awaited him if captured by the Japanese, An Joong-Gun shot Ito after he stepped off the train. Following the assassination, Joong-Gun was captured by Japanese troops and imprisoned at Port Arthur. While in Japanese prisons, he suffered through five months of extremely barbarous torture. Despite this unbelievable treatment, it is said that his spirit never broke. On March 26, l9l0, at 10:00 a.m., Joong-Gun was executed at Lui-Shung prison.

The assassination of Hirobumi Ito, like so many other actions by Korean patriots, seemed to only serve to fuel the fires of Japanese oppression. In 1910, the office of resident general, with Ito’s successor now in charge, was changed to governor general to allow a more dictatorial approach to the total control of Korea. Akashi Genjiro was named as the commander of the Japanese military and police superintendent in Korea. He launched an extremely harsh campaign to harass the Korean population. He closed all newspapers, disbanded all patriotic organizations, arrested thousands of Korean leaders, and enforced a strict military rule of the capital city of Seoul by crack Japanese combat troops. This type of rule under the Japanese continued in Korea until Japan surrendered at the end of World War II.

The sacrifice of An Joong-Gun was one of many in this chaotic time in Korean history. His attitude and that of his compatriots symbolized the loyalty and dedication of the Korean people to their country’s independence and freedom. Joong-Gun’s love for his country was forever captured in the calligraphy he wrote in his cell in Lui-Shung Prison prior to his execution. It simply said, “The Best Rivers and Mountains.” This implied that he felt his country was the most beautiful on earth. Although his roles spanned from educator to guerrilla leader, he was, above all, a great Korean patriot.

32 movements represent the age at which An Joong-Gun was martyred in 1910.

Toi Gye is the pen name of the noted scholar Yi Hwang (1501-1570 A.D.), an authority on Neo-Confucianism.Yi Hwang, or Toi Gye as he is often called, lived at a time of great social upheaval and ethical conflict between the public good and private self-interest.He passed the preliminary provincial civil service examination with top honours at the age of 33 and continued his scholarly pursuits, even as he held several government positions, until his death at age 70.

Yi was the ideal gentleman-scholar for he pursued self-cultivation and service to his country throughout his life. On numerous occasions he was exiled from the capital for his firm commitment to principle.

Yi Hwang was greatly respected by King Chungjong, Myongjong and Sonjo, and his thought even influenced the development of Neo-Confucianism in Japan.

Yi died in 1570. He was posthumously promoted to the highest ministerial rank. His mortuary tablet is enshrined in a Confucian shrine as well as in the shrine of King Sonjo.

Yi was the author of many books on Confucianism. He also published a “shijo” collection, a short poetic form popular with the literati of the Choson period.

It was in his later years that he began to build Tosan Sowon, a private Confucian academy offering instruction in the classics and honouring the sages with regular memorial rites.

The academy remains a center for the study Toi Gye thought, and regular memorial services are held in honour of its founder twice a year.

Named after the Hwa-rang youth group that originated in the Silla Dynasty over 1350 years ago and became the driving force for unification of the three kingdoms of Korea.During the 6th century AD, the Korean peninsula was divided into three kingdoms: Silla, Koguryo, and Paekche. Silla, the smallest of these kingdoms, was constantly under invasion and harassment by its two more powerful neighbours. The Hwarang were established by Chin Hung, the 24th King of Silla (540 AD), who was a devoted Buddhist and loved elegance and physical beauty. He believed in mythical beings and male (Sin-Sun) and female fairies (Sun-Nyo). These beliefs led him to hold beauty contests to find the prettiest maidens in the country, which he called Won-Hwa (Original Flowers). He taught them modesty, loyalty, filial piety, and sincerity, so they would become good wives. In one contest among 300-400 Won-Hwa, two exceptionally beautiful young women were favoured, Nam-Mo and Joon-Jung. Unfortunately, the two began to struggle for power and influence between themselves. Finally, to win the contest, Joon Jung got Nam-Mo drunk and killed her by crushing her skull with a rock. When the unfortunate maiden’s body was found in a shallow grave by the river, the king had Joon-Jung put to death and disbanded the order of the Won-Hwa.

Several years after this incident the King created a new order, the Hwarang. “Hwa” meant flower or blossom, and “Rang” meant youth or gentle men. The word Hwa-rang soon came to stand for Flower of Knighthood. These Hwarang were selected from handsome, virtuous young men of good families.

Each Hwarang group consisted hundreds of thousands of members chosen from the young sons of the nobility by popular election. The leaders of each group, including the most senior leader, were referred to as Kuk-Son. The Kuk-Son were similar to King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table in England around 1200 AD.

Trainees learned the five cardinal principles of human relations (kindness, justice, courtesy, intelligence, and faith), the three scholarships (royal tutor, instructor, and teacher), and the six ways of service (holy minister, good minister, loyal minister, wise minister, virtuous minister, and honest minister). After training, candidates were presented to the king for nomination as a Hwarang or Kuk-Son.

From Kuk-Son ranks were chosen government officials, military leaders, field generals, and even kings, who served Silla both in times of peace and war. Most of the great military leaders of Silla were products of Hwarang training, and many were Kuk-Son.

The education of a Hwarang was supported by the king and generally lasted ten years, after which the youth usually entered into some form of service to his country. King Chin Hung sent the Hwarang to places of scenic beauty for physical and mental culture as true knights of the nation. For hundreds of years the Hwarang were taught by Kuk-Son in social etiquette, music and songs, and patriotic behavior.

A Hwarang candidate had to be a man of character, virtue, and countenance. The Hwarang trained to improve their moral principles and military skills. To harden their bodies, they climbed rugged mountains and swam turbulent rivers in the coldest months.

The youth were taught dance, literature, arts, and sciences, and the arts of warfare, chariot, archery, and hand-to-hand combat. The hand-to-hand combat was based on the Um-Yang principles of Buddhist philosophy and included a blending of hard and soft, linear and circular techniques. The art of foot fighting was known as Subak and was practiced by common people throughout the three kingdoms. However, the Hwarang transformed and intensified this art and added hand techniques, renaming it Taekkyon. The Hwarang punches could penetrate the wooden chest armor of an enemy and kill him. Their foot techniques were said to be executed at such speed that opponents frequently thought that the feet of Hwarang warriors were swords.

In later centuries, the king of Koryo made Taekkyon training mandatory for all soldiers, and annual Taekkyon contests were held among all members of the Silla population on May 5th of the Lunar Calendar.

The rank of Hwarang usually meant a man had achieved the position of a teacher of the martial arts and commanded 500-5,000 students called Hwarang-Do. A Kuk-Son was the master and held the rank of general in the army. Hwarang fighting spirit was ferocious and was recorded in many literary works including the Sam-Guk-Sagi, written by Kim Pu-Sik in 1145, and the Hwarang-Segi. The latter was said to have contained the records of lives and deeds of over 200 individual Hwarang (Sadly, it was lost during the Japanese occupation in the 20th century). The zeal of the Hwarang helped Silla become the world’s first “Buddha Land” and led to the unification of the three kingdoms of Korea. Buddhist principles were so ingrained in the code of the Hwarang that a large number of monks participated in the Hwarang-Do. During times of war, they would take up arms to die for Silla.

Hwarang code

The Hwarang code was established in the 3Oth year of King Chin-Hung’s rule. Two noted Hwa-rang warriors, Kwi-San and Chu-Hang, sought out the famous warrior and Buddhist monk, Wong-Gwang Popsa, in Kusil temple on Mount Unmun and asked that he give them lifetime commandments that men who could not embrace the secluded life of a Buddhist monk could follow. The commandments, based on Confucian and Buddhist principles, were divided into five rules (loyalty to the king and country, obedience to one’s parents, sincerity, trust and brotherhood among friends, never retreat in battle, and selectivity and justice in the killing of living things), and nine virtues (humanity, justice, courtesy,

wisdom, trust, goodness, virtue, loyalty, and courage).

These principles were not taken lightly, as in the case of Kwi-San and Chu-Hang, who rescued their own commander, General Muun, when he was ambushed and fell from his horse during a battle in 603 AD. Attacking the enemy, these two Hwarang were heard to cry out to their followers, “Now is the time to follow the commandment to not retreat in battle!” After giving one of their horses to the general, they killed a great number of the pursuing enemy and finally, “bleeding from a thousand wounds,” they both died.

The code of the Hwarang is similar to the more commonly known code of the Japanese samurai, Bushido. The code of the Hwarang-Do played a similar role in the Korean kingdom of Silla approximately 1,000 years earlier. Being established during the 6th to 10th centuries, Hwarang-Do was considered more ancient and refined than Bushido. The Silla Dynasty lasted 1,000 years, and the Code of the Hwarang, known as Sesok-Ogye, endured throughout the Silla and Koryo dynasties. Its influence led to a unified national spirit and ultimately the unification of the three kingdoms of Korea around 668 AD.

The practice of Bushido appears to have perpetuated a feudal system in Japan for over 700 years with continual provincial wars, whereas Silla and Koryo thrived under the influence of the Hwarang. These Korean dynasties, based on Hwarang ethics, remained internally peaceful and prosperous for over 1,500 years while defending themselves against a multitude of foreign invasions. This can be compared to the Roman Empire, which thrived for only 1,000 years. Oyama Masutatsu, a well-known authority on Karate in Japan, has even suggested that the Hwarang were the forerunners of the Japanese samurai.

First recorded Hwarang hero

Sul Won-Nang was elected as the first Kuk-Son or head of the Hwarang order. However, the first recorded Hwarang hero was Sa Da-Ham. At the young age of 15, he raised his own 1,000-man army in support of Silla in its war against the neighbouring kingdom of Kara. He requested and was granted the honour of leading this force in support of the Silla army attacking the main fort of the Kara in 562 AD. As the first to breach the walls of the enemy fort, he was highly praised and rewarded by King Chin Hung for his bravery. He was offered 300 slaves and a large tract of land as a reward, but released the slaves and refused the land, stating that he did not wish to receive personal rewards for his deeds. He did agree to accept a small amount of fertile soil as a matter of courtesy to the King. However, when his best friend was killed in battle, Sa Da-Ham was inconsolable. As a youth, Sa Da-Ham and his friend had made pact-of-death should either of them ever die in battle. True to his promise, Sa Da-Ham starved himself to death, demonstrating his loyalty and adherence to the code of the Hwarang.

Another dedicated Hwarang, Kwan Chang, became a Hwarang commander at the age of 16 and was the son of Kim Yu-Sin’s Assistant General Kim Pumil. In 655 AD, he fought in the battle of Hwangsan against Paekche under General Kim Yu-Sin. During this battle he dashed headlong into the enemy camp and killed many Paekche soldiers, but was finally captured. His high ranking battle crest indicated that he was the son of a general so he was taken before the Paekche general, Gae-Baek. Surprised by Kwan Chang’s youthfulness when his helmet was removed, and thinking of his own young son, Gae-Baek decided that instead of executing him as was the custom with captured officers, he would return the young Hwa-rang to the Silla lines. Gae-Baek remarked, “Alas, how can we match the army of Silla! Even a young boy like this has such courage, not to speak of Silla’s men.” Kwan Chang went before his father and asked permission to be sent back into battle at the head of his men. After a day-long battle, Kwan Chang was again captured. After he had been disarmed, he broke free of his two guards, killing them with his hands and feet, and then attacked the Paekche general’s second in command. With a flying reverse turning kick to the head of the commander, who sat eight feet high atop his horse, Kwan Chang killed him. After finally being subdued once more, he was again taken before the Packche general. This time Gae-Baek said “I gave you your life once because of your youth, but now you return to take the life of my best field commander.” He then had Kwan Chang executed and his body returned to the Silla lines. General Kim Pumil was proud that his son had died so bravely in the service of his king. He said to his men, “It seems as if my son’s honour is alive. I am fortunate that he died for the King.” He then rallied his army and went on to defeat the Paekche forces.

The spirit of the Hwarang was present in all of the kingdoms of Korea during this time, and although not as evident as in Silla, it was demonstrated by such great Korean historical figures as Yon-Gye, Ul-Ji Moon-Duk, and Moon- Moo This spirit was kept alive throughout history by many individuals.

Hwarang and the martial arts fell out of favour during the Yi Dynasty (1392-1910) and adherence to the Hwarang code declined. Several Koreans did keep the code, however, notably Admiral Yi Sun-Sin who was instrumental in defeating the Japanese invasions of Korea in 1592 and 1597. The spirit of the Hwarang and their code was present in Buddhist temples by monks. For example, in the 16th century two monks who followed the Hwarang code, rallied a Buddhist army that was instrumental in driving the Japanese invasion forces from Korea.

Stories of the Hwarang and their individual feats illustrate the code of the Hwarang, the type of ethics and morality essential to the evolution of the martial arts and the success Silla as a nation. This code has profoundly affected the Korean people and their culture throughout history. The lives and deeds of the Hwarang illustrate a level of courage, honour, wisdom, culture, compassion, and impeccable conduct that few men in history have demonstrated. The dedication and self-sacrifice of the Hwarang was clearly based on principles much stronger than ego and self interest. This basis was the Sesok-Ogye, the code of the Hwarang asset forth by the great Buddhist monk and scholar, Won Kang:

Be loyal to your king.
Be obedient to your parents.
Be honorable to your friends.
Never retreat in battle.
Make a just kill.

Chung Mu is the given name of great admiral Yi Sun-Sin who was in charge of naval operations during the Yi Dynasty. Born in 1545, Yi Sun-Sin was considered a master naval tactician and was largely responsible for the defeat of the Japanese in 1592 and 1598. He has been compared to Sir Francis Drake and Lord Nelson of England. His name is held in such high esteem that when the Japanese fleet defeated the Russian navy in 1905, the Japanese admiral was quoted as saying, “You may wish to compare me with Lord Nelson but do not compare me with Korea’s Admiral Yi Sun-Sin…. He is too remarkable for anyone”.”Yi Sun-Sin’s most famous invention was the Kobukson, or turtle-boat, a galley ship decked over with iron plates to protect the soldiers and rowing seamen. It was so named because the curvature of the iron plates covering the top decks resembled a turtle’s shell. The ship was 110 feet long and 28 feet wide with a lower deck for cabins and supplies, a middle deck for oarsmen, and an upper deck for marines and cannons. Most of the timber was four inches thick, giving the ship protection from arrows and musket balls. It had a large iron ram in the shape of a turtle’s head with an open mouth from which smoke, arrows, and missiles were discharged. Another such opening in the rear and six more on either side were for the same purpose. The armored shell was fitted with iron spikes and knives that were covered over with straw or grass to impale unwanted boarders.

The Kobukson was not only impervious to almost any Japanese weapon, it was heavy and built for speed and could overtake anything afloat. The ship carried approximately forty 3-inch cannons that fired shot or steel headed darts, and had hundreds of small holes for firing arrows or throwing bombs. In comparison, the Japanese ships usually carried one cannon, many muskets, and no protective armour. The Kobukson was very effective in chasing down and sinking large numbers of Japanese troop and supply ships as well as successfully attacking numerous heavy Japanese battleships head on. It was the most highly developed warship of its time.

The Kobukson was constructed in a critical period in Korean history, one of the many times Korean and Japanese destinies converged.

First invasion in 1592.

When Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the shogun of Japan, rose to power in 1590, he decided to control the internal feuding in Japan. Because Japan’s largest threat was the other powerful war lords of Japan, he planned to tie up the financial resources of the lords with an invasion of China and thereby dilute their power. He requested that Korea aid him in his conquest. When it refused, he ordered two of his generals, Kato Kiyomasa (the Buddhist commander) and Konishi Yukinaga (the Christian commander), to attack Korea in April 1592.

The Japanese invasion force was comprised of 160,000 regular army troops, 80,000 bodyguard troops, 1,500 heavy cavalry, 60,000 reserve troops, 50,000 horses, 300,000 firearms 500,000 daggers, 100,000 short swords, 100,000 spears, 100,000 long swords, 5,000 axes, and 3-4,000 boats (40-50 feet by 10 feet). The army was also supported by another 700 ships, transport vessels, naval ships, and small craft manned by 9,000 seamen. Having been acquainted with the use of firearms since 1543, the Japanese had imported a large number of muskets from Europe, and had developed the ability to manufacture them four years before the first invasion.

The Koreans, on the other hand, had few firearms and did not know how to use or manufacture them. Outnumbered and armed only with swords, bows and arrows, and spears, the Korean military was severely disadvantaged in the face of the Japanese invading army armed with 300,000 muskets. Although a few courageous Korean units resisted, such as those under the command of General Kim Si-Min, the army of Japan reached Seoul in just 15 days and occupied the entire country by May 1592.

The Korean king, Son Jo, fled with his court to Uiju in the Northern Provinces with permission from the Ming emperor of China with whom the Koreans had several treaties. When the Ming armies joined in the fight, the tide of the war shifted away from the Japanese. They had to fight Korean guerrilla groups as well as the Ming army, while at the same time finding themselves cut off from their supplies by Admiral named Yi Sun-Sin. Disease, malnutrition, and the cold soon took its toll on Japanese morale. Having lost the will to fight, retreating Japanese forces were stalked by guerrilla forces led by Confucian scholars and Buddhist monks. Peace negotiations eventually took place between the Ming general and the Japanese, but these talks dragged on for five years and reached no conclusion.

In early 1592, at the outset of this conflict, Admiral Yi Sun-Sin, in charge of the Right Division of Chulla Province, made his headquarters in the port city of Yosu. In Yosu, he constructed his famed turtle ships. The first Kobukson was launched and outfitted with cannons only two days before the first Japanese troops landed at Pusan. In the fifth month of 1592, assisted by Admiral Won Kyun of the Left Division of Chulla Province, Admiral Yi engaged the Japanese at Okpa. In his first battle, Admiral Yi commanded 80 ships compared to the Japanese naval force of 800 ships. The Japanese were trying to re-supply their northern bases from their port at Pusan. By the end of the day, Yi had set afire 26 Japanese ships and the rest had turned to flee. Giving chase, he sank many more, leaving the entire Japanese fleet scattered.

Several major engagements followed in which Admiral Yi annihilated every Japanese squadron he encountered. Courageous and a tactical genius, he seemed to be able to outguess the enemy. In one incident, Admiral Yi dreamt that a robed man called out “The Japanese are coming.” Seeing this as a sign, he rose to assemble his ships, sailed out, and surprised a large enemy fleet. He burned twelve enemy ships and scattered the rest. In the course of the battle, he demonstrated his bravery by not showing pain when shot in the shoulder. He revealed his injury only when the battle was over, at which time he bared his shoulder and ordered that the bullet be cut out.

In August of 1592, 100,000 Japanese troop reinforcements headed around Pyongyang peninsula and up the west coast. Admiral Yi and his Lieutenant Yi Ok-Keui confronted them at Kyon-Na-Rang among the islands off the southern coast of Korea. Pretending at first to flee, Admiral Yi then turned and began to ram the Japanese ships. His fleet followed his lead and sank 71 Japanese boats. When a Japanese reinforcement fleet arrived, Admiral Yi’s fleet sank 48 more Japanese ships and forced many more to be beached as the Japanese sailors tried to escape on land. This engagement is considered to be one of history’s greatest naval battles.

Unaware of this battle, the Japanese commander had sent a message to the Korean King Son-Jo that read: “100,000 men are coming to reinforce me. Where will you flee then?” Upon hearing that Admiral Yi had shattered the Japanese fleet, the king was elated and heaped all possible honours upon him. For the Japanese, any hope of an invasion of China was now totally crushed.

Admiral Yi Sun-Sin pushed on to Tang-Hang Harbour where he encountered another large Japanese fleet that included the huge Japanese flagship of the Japanese admiral. Admiral Yi ordered his best archer to shoot the Japanese admiral, who sat on the deck dressed in silk and gold. The arrow pierced the Japanese admiral’s throat, throwing the entire Japanese fleet into a panicked retreat which ended in carnage as Yi pursued in his usual fashion.

In a brilliant military move, Admiral Yi took the entire Korean Navy, 180 small and large ships into the Japanese home port at Pusan harbour and attacked the main Japanese naval force of more than 500 ships, that was still at anchor. Using fire boats and strategic manoeuvring, he sank over half of the Japanese vessels. However, receiving no land support, Admiral Yi was forced to withdraw. With this battle, Admiral Yi completed what some naval historians have called the most important series of engagements in the history of the world.

During one patrol sweep, Admiral Yi’s fleet spotted 26 Japanese ships on the horizon. He spread out his forces in a formation known as the fishnet and advanced. The fishnet or inverted V grouped the heaviest ships of the fleet at its vortex. As the enemy ships were forced inside the V, they were trapped and destroyed by Yi’s heavy ships.

Korean control of the sea, under the command of Admiral Yi Sun-Sin, soon forced the Japanese invasion to a complete standstill. Although the Japanese ground commanders begged for supplies, neither supplies nor reinforcements could get past Admiral Yi Sun-Sin to reach the Japanese forces along the western coast of the peninsula. Because of this situation, the following months saw little military action.

During his forced idleness Admiral Yi Sun-Sin prepared for the future; he had his men make salt by evaporating seawater, and used it to pay local workers for building ships and barracks and to trade for materials his navy needed. His energy and patriotism were so contagious that many worked for nothing. Having heard not only of Yi’s military feats, but his contributions to the navy as well, the king conferred upon him the admiralty of the surrounding three provinces.

For a successful invasion of Korea, the Japanese knew that they would have to eliminate Yi Sun-Sin. No Japanese fleet would be safe as long as his turtle boats were prowling the sea. Seeing how the internal court rivalries of the Koreans worked, the Japanese devised a plan. A Japanese soldier named Yosira was sent to the camp of the Korean general, Kim Eung-Su, and convinced the general that he would spy on the Japanese for the Koreans.

Yosira spent a long time acting as a spy and giving the Koreans what appeared to be valuable information. One day he told General Kim that the Japanese General Kato would be coming on a certain date with the great Japanese fleet, and insisted that Admiral Yi be sent to lie in wait and sink it. General Kim agreed and requested King Son-Jo for permission to send Admiral Yi. The general was given permission, but when he gave Admiral Yi his orders, the admiral declined. Yi knew that the location given by the spy was studded with sunken rocks and was very dangerous. When General Kim informed the king of Admiral Yi Sun Sin’s refusal to go, Admiral Yi’s enemies at court insisted on his replacement by Won Kyun and his arrest. As a result, in 1597 Admiral Yi Sun-Sin was relieved of command, placed under arrest, taken to Seoul in chains, beaten, and tortured. The king wanted to have Admiral Yi killed but the admiral’s supporters at court convinced the king to spare him due to his past service record. Spared the death penalty, Admiral Yi was demoted to the rank of common foot soldier. Yi Sun-Sin responded to this humiliation as a most obedient subject, going quietly about his work as if his rank and orders were totally appropriate.

With Admiral Yi stripped of any influence, when negotiations broke down in 1596, Hideyoshi again ordered his army to attack Korea. The invasion came in the first month of 1597 with a Japanese force of 140,000 men transported to Korea in thousands of ships. Had Admiral Yi been in command of the Korean Navy at that time, the Japanese would most likely never have landed on any shore again. Instead, the Japanese fleet landed safely at Sosang Harbour.

The spy Yosira continued to urge General Kim to send the Korean Navy to intercept a fleet of Japanese ships. When ordered to do so, Won Kyun gathered his 80 ships together and reluctantly set sail. This fleet was hardly recognizable as Yi Sun-Sin’s former one. Won Kyun had eliminated all of the rules and regulations set up by Yi when he took command as well as purging the ranks of all who had been close to Admiral Yi. His inept manoeuvres almost destroyed the entire Korean fleet and alienated all his men. Consequently, this battle ended in a complete defeat for the Korean Navy, while Yi Sun-Sin was being detained as a foot soldier. The Korean fleet scattered in a night storm and the main portion blundered upon the Japanese fleet the next day. On seeing the Japanese fleet, Won Kyun panicked and retreated. He beached his boats and took to the land but the Japanese overtook and beheaded him. The Korean fleet scattered was mostly destroyed.

With the news of Won Kyun’s disastrous defeat, a loyal advisor of the king called for Yi Sun-Sin’s reinstatement. Fearing for his country’s security, the king hastily reinstated Yi Sun-Sin as the naval commander. In spite of his previous unfair treatment, Yi immediately set out on foot for his former base at Hansan. As he travelled, he met scattered remnants of his former force. By the time he arrived at Hansan, he had only twelve boats but no lack of men, for the people along the coast had flocked to him when they heard of his reinstatement. Yi drew up his fleet of 12 boats in the shadow of a mountain on Chin-Do island off the Myongyang straits. One night his scouts reported the approach of a Japanese fleet. As the moon dropped behind the mountain, the Korean fleet of 12 ships was shrouded in total darkness. When the Japanese fleet of 133 ships sailed by in single file, Admiral Yi’s forces gave a large shout and fired point blank. Yi employed one of his tactics, the use of two salvo fire, that resulted in a continuous barrage, causing the Japanese to think that they had run into a vastly superior force. Their fleet scattered in all directions in a total panic. The next day several hundred more Japanese ships appeared and Admiral Yi, fearless as ever, made straight for them. He was soon surrounded, but sank 30 Japanese boats. The remainder of the Japanese fleet, recognizing the work of the famous Admiral Yi Sun-Sin, turned and fled. Admiral Yi gave chase, decimated the enemy, and killed the Japanese commander Madasi.

After this battle, Admiral Yi returned to Hansan and once again began rebuilding the navy and making salt. His former captains and soldiers came back to him in “clouds.” With his salt-making operations and the money collected as a toll from fleeing merchant ships, Admiral Yi purchased needed plies and materials such as copper used in making cannons and ships. He again managed to establish a large, well-equipped garrison.

Despite Admiral Yi’s personal success, Korea was alone and in trouble. What help was available was most often supplied by Chinese troops and naval units. Although this military support was welcome, it carried with it a new set of problems, such as Korean fighting units having to put up with Chinese commander being in charge of them. These commanders were usually not inspired by the same patriotism that guided good Korean commanders.

In 1598, the Chinese emperor sent Admiral Chil Lin to command Korea’s western coast. Admiral Chil Lin was an extremely vain man and would take advice from no one. Knowing this to be a serious problem, Admiral Yi made every effort to win the trust of the Chinese admiral. His political skills proved to be as good as his military ones. He allowed Admiral Chil Lin to take credit for many of his own victories. He was willing to forgo the praise and let others reap the commendation in order to have the enemies of his country destroyed.

Yi Sun-Sin was soon in charge of all strategy while Admiral Chil Lin took the credit. This arrangement made the Chinese seem successful, which so encouraged them that they gave Korea the aid it desperately needed. Admiral Chil Lin could not praise Admiral Yi enough, and repeatedly wrote to the Korean King So-Jon that the universe did not contain another man who could perform the feats that Yi Sun-Sin apparently found easy.

It is fitting that Admiral Yi died in battle in 1598. It was during the time when the Japanese were trying to evacuate many of their forces. Admiral Yi and the Chinese Admiral Chil Lin swooped down on their forces and nearly wiped out the entire fleet. On November 8, 1598, at the age of 54, Yi Sun-Sin, while standing in the bow of his flagship directing the battle, was struck with a stray bullet. Before he died, he is quoted as saying, “Do not let the rest know I am dead, for it will spoil the fight.”

During the second invasion of Korea in 1597, the Japanese were only able to occupy Kyongsang and part of Chulla Provinces. Their efforts were thwarted by the harassment of the Korean volunteer army and the strategies of Admiral Yi Sun-Sin that prevented them from landing or being supplied beyond the southern provinces. Partly due to this lack of progress, the war ended after Hideyoshi’s death late in 1598 when the Japanese troops were recalled to Japan.

The six years of war, from 1592 to 1598, laid waste to the whole Korean peninsula. Hardly a building still stands in Korea that predates the Hideyoshi invasions except for a few stone structures. Rare and valuable collections of books were destroyed, including the official records of the reigns of the Yi dynasty. A series of famines, epidemics, peasant revolts, and a full-scale renewal of political squabbling in the Korean government followed on the heels of the war. As a result, culture and government were left in chaos and the social system of the country was disrupted.

For all its disastrous aftermath, the war did provide Korea with one of its most celebrated national heroes, Admiral Yi Sun-Sin. Known primarily as an inventor of the world’s first iron-plated vessel and a master naval tactician, Yi also had other accomplishments. Some of his little-known inventions included the use of a smoke generator in which sulphur and saltpetre were burned, emitting great clouds of smoke. This first recorded use of a smoke screen struck terror in the hearts of superstitious enemy sailors, and more practically, it masked the movements of Admiral Yi’s ships.

Another of his inventions was a type of flamethrower, that was a small cannon with an arrow-shaped shell that housed an incendiary charge. This flamethrower successfully set afire hundreds of enemy ships. Along with his inventions, specific tactical manoeuvres demonstrate Yi’s brilliance as a naval tactician, such as his use of the fishnet formation and using two salvo fire against ships.

Admiral Yi Sun-Sin was one of the greatest heroes in Korean history. He was posthumously awarded the honorary title of Choong-Moo, “Loyalty-Chivalry,” in 1643. The Distinguished Military Service Medal of the Republic of Korea (the third highest) is named after this title. Numerous books praise his feats of glory and several statues and monuments commemorate his deeds. In April 1968, a 55-foot high statue of Yi (reportedly the tallest in the Orient) was dedicated in Seoul, Korea. His life-size statue on the peak of Mt. Nam-mang, indicates he was a very large man, as judged by the size of the sword on the statue.

The shrine of Chungnyol-Sa, meaning “faithful to king and country,” established in 1606, is now both a museum and shrine dedicated to the admiral. The eight relics on display in this shrine were gifts to Admiral Yi Sun-Sin from the Chinese emperor and include a 7-foot commander’s bugle, a 5-foot sword, a ceremonial sword (weighing 66 pounds), Admiral Yi’s seal, and several flags. Another Korean treasure is the war diary of Admiral Yi Sun-Sin, which, in addition to some of his personal articles, is preserved at the shrine of Hyonchung-Sa. In addition, a small museum in the city of Choong-Moo, a traditional seaport named after him, displays a replica of the turtle ship as well as other articles of that period.