Admiral Yi Sun-Shin: A Great Hero to Remember
By Caroline Lee Chou (주 미래)
Admiral Yi Sun-Shin (이순신 장군) was quite an admirable man. I am amazed and awed at how much effort he put into making himself a better person throughout his life. There are many traits of him that I wish to have in my own personality. Admiral Yi Sun-Shin was strong, had an unyielding will to always do what was right, was extremely modest, forgiving, diligent, clever, kind, selfless, and wise. Admiral Yi Sun-Shin was very strong, and had a very firm will to do the right thing. When King Sunjo (선조 대왕)--deceived by Japanese spies--ordered Admiral Yi Sun-Shin to take his men to defend Busan (부산) from a Japanese commander, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin already knew the trickery behind the request, and refused to send his forces to Busan. Although he was imprisoned, severely tortured, and faced with the threat of being demoted to a common soldier and having to fight (백의종군), as well as the threat of death, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin stayed true to what he believed was right, his opinion and values never wavering. Admiral Yi Sun-Shin also stood firmly by what was right when friends tried to convince him to promote them. If they did not deserve to get promoted, he would not promote them just because they were his friends. Instead, he only promoted those who had actually done something to deserve it. Admiral Yi Sun-Shin was extremely clever, wise and creative as well. He perfected the Geobukseon(거북선), a sturdy ship with a spiky iron back, and cannons on the sides. The many parts of the Geobukseon made the ship nearly invincible. Cannons fired from the boat’s sides, ends and dragon figurehead (at the front of the boat), which also emitted smoke. The strong iron top of the ship was covered with spikes, keeping enemies from jumping onto the ship from above. In addition, there were small holes in the sides of the boat for guns and arrows to go through, without the shooters getting hurt themselves.
Another one of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin’s clever ideas occurred during the MyeongRyang Naval Battle (명량해전), when he and his men were drastically outnumbered--about thirteen to seventy--against the invading Japanese. Instead of fretting about what to do, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin devised a wise plan: meet the Japanese in OorDorMmog (울돌목), a narrow passage of water, and fight them. This was a good plan, because since the passage was narrow, all of Joseon’s ships could block one end of the strait, forcing the many Japanese ships to enter the passage in smaller numbers. This way, they could defeat the Japanese little by little.
Yet another one of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin’s clever battle plans was when the Koreans had to fight the Japanese in GyonNaeRyang (견내량), another narrow strip of water. Admiral Yi Sun-Shin’s wise solution to this was to trick the Japanese into following them to a place near HanSanDo (한산도), a wider battle area. In the smaller straits between surrounding islands, Joseon ships were hidden. When both Yi Sun-Shin’s men and the Japanese were near the island, those cleverly concealed boats emerged, and joined Admiral Yi Sun-Shin’s ships to create a vast U-shape around the enemy, also known as the battle formation called HagYigJin (학익진). Being attacked on all sides, the Japanese were defeated, and the Koreans were victorious. What’s more, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin was also very forgiving, and never harbored any feelings of resentment. Twice he had had to suffer the immense humiliation of Baekuijongkun (백의종군), and thrice he was unjustly demoted or sent away. However, amazingly, despite all of the unfair consequences that he had had to suffer, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin did not complain or protest. He did not even blame the king (who had almost had him killed), or his rival commander, Won Gyun(원균), who had convinced the king that Admiral Yi Sun-Shin had done wrong. He simply went along with the punishments. In addition, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin was very modest. He never boasted about his victories over the Japanese, and instead, addressed the fact that he felt guilty for having Joseon’s people suffer the pains of war. He was always taking full accountability for his wrongdoings. Furthermore, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin was very selfless, and always thought of helping others before meeting his own needs. When his own wife was dying while he was in the navy, he chose to defend his nation, to help many people, rather than take time off to be with his wife. He did this because he believed that serving his nation was more important. What’s more, while in the army, he once came close to where his mother lived. He could have gone to visit her for a little bit, but again, he chose to defend his country, instead of putting his wants before others, and did not make the visit. Also, at the time that Admiral Yi Sun-Shin lived, common people and soldiers were not treated very well. In fact, they were treated only a tiny bit better than animals! However, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin treated everybody well, valuing every person. This shows that Admiral Yi Sun-Shin is not only thoughtful, but kind as well. Additionally, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin was remarkably courageous. Many times, while battling at sea, he was greatly outnumbered in the number of ships he had against the Japanese. Despite this, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin was always able to come up with a brilliant strategy, and was always victorious after battling the enemy. What’s more, even when the Japanese came with ships more than ten times the amount that the Koreans had, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin never ran away from a battle. He was always loyal and dutiful to his country.
Finally, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin was very diligent and hard-working. Back then, commanders had to submit required regular reports to the king, as well as direct military forces. Since there were no computers back then, all the reports had to be done by hand. In spite of all the busy and frantic days during the war, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin always managed to complete the required reports. Also, when the time came that Admiral Yi Sun-Shin’s men needed to take the Kwago National Military Exam, they were too far away from the city that the Kwago Exam (과거 시험) was held. If the soldiers did not take this exam, they could not progress in their military professions. Knowing this, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin thoughtfully went out of his way to request special permission to have his soldiers take the exam at an alternate location: Hansan Naval Headquarters.
Admiral Yi Sun-Shin was truly an extraordinarily honorable and admirable hero. Again, there are quite a few character traits that he had that I wish to have as well. One of them is Admiral Yi Sun-Shin’s trait of forgiveness, and not harboring any feelings of resentment against anyone. I value friendship very much. One of the keys to having strong friendship with someone is to be able to forgive somebody if they did something wrong, or if an argument occurred. I am not always very good at forgiving people after a quarrel. However, if I could forgive and forget as easily as Admiral Yi Sun-Shin did, I could keep good relationships with many of my friends. This characteristic will also become useful to me later in life, with my colleagues at work. If I forgive every difficult conflict between me and my coworkers, I imagine that I will become a more likeable, better person overall. Admiral Yi Sun-Shin must have used this strategy with his fellow officers and soldiers as well, by creating good relationships with his men, helping him become a successful commander. This useful trait of forgiveness must have been one of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin’s keys to becoming a great hero. Admiral Yi Sun-Shin was certainly an amazing person. I believe that all of us can learn something great from him.
성 김안드레아 한국학교, Herbert Hoover Middle School 6학년 재학중
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yi_Sun-sin Book of Corrections: Reflections on the National Crisis during the Japanese Invasion of Korea 1592-1598
징비록 by 류성룡, Translated by Choi Byonghyo