The Sea Battles (The Korea-Japan War)

Publié le par Tiger LEE

The Sea Battles (The Korea-Japan War)

1. Yosu and Imjinwaeran

We can find the historical records about Yosu area from the period of the three Kingdoms, the period when Korea was divided into the three countries from 4C to 7C. The town name, Yosu, has been used since the Korea Dynasty reformed the administrative structures just after it was established by Wang in 918. The new dynasty changed the geographical names of the whole territory. However, though it had its new name, it was not administratively independent because it had not enough the farmland and the dwellers. It was a part of the Suncheun County. In 1350, at the end of the Korea Dynasty, Yosu could be the independent county and got the first governor by the King Chungjeong.

The independence, however, was lasted for 43 years. Seungkye Lee, the founder of the new dynasty, Chosun, closed down the Yosu County in 1393 because it resisted it out when Lee collapsed the Korea Dynasty. Yosu was the rebellion town to him. Heunin Oh, the last governor of the Yosu County did not follow the revolution against the Korea Dynasty which was carried by the General Seungkye Lee. He wanted to remain as a official of the Korea Dynasty with faithfulness. When Lee's army occupied Yosu County, the independence was finished and it had remained a small part of Suncheun County for 500 years of the Chosun Dynasty.

Yosu had been underestimated by the political orientation, but it had been one of the hot spot by the military orientation because of the invasions and plunders by the Japanese pirates. The Japanese pirates had seriously invaded Korea since at the end of the era of three countries. Yosu also had damages because it is open to the sea as a port. Naturally, the navy bases had been established in Yosu since the Korea Dynasty. The King Seungjong, the 9th king of the Chosun Dynasty, promoted Yosu as the Cholla Left Navy Headquarter in 1479. It had lasted for 417 years until it was finally closed by the King Kojong, the last king, in 1895. For this period, Yosu had played a very important role as the saver of the southern coasts, and even Korea.

During Imjinwaeran, Cholla Left and Right Navy stood for the Japanese invaders by themselves because all the other Korean fleets were collapsed. Admiral Lee led Cholla Navy successfully to beat the invaders in the southern coasts and did not allowed the invaders to advance to the west. In the result, Cholla navy blocked the sea roads of the speedy supplies for the Japanese army in the land. Admiral Lee became a war hero to save Korea and Yosu is proud of making the hero.

This home page has the special corner of "Yosu and Imjinwaeran" to remind Admiral Lee and his faithfulness, and to root the great achievements of the ancestors of Yosu.

2. Admiral Lee's transfer to Yosu

Lee was promoted as the 81th commander of Cholla Left Navy on 13 February, 1591, by the recommendation of Seungryong Ryu, the prime minister, and transferred his work from the Jeungeup County to Yosu on 28 February when he was 47. His promotion as a commander in Yosu was the milestone in the Korean history because his transfer was just one year before the war, Imjinwaeran. At that time, nobody predicted the Japanese invasion among the government officials. The politicians argued one another to get more advantage for their side and the officials were extremely corrupted. The army was not strict and even not trained.

In that situation, Lee's transfer to Cholla Left Navy could be regarded as the lamp which would light the darkness of the Korean future. A historian said that Ryu had done what he had to do for his nation and people as a government official by his recommendation for Lee. The Korean government did not prepare anything for the future. Only Lee did it privately for himself.

3. War Preparation of Cholla Left Navy

1) Building the turtle war ships

The typical symbol of Admiral Lee was the turtle ships during Imjinwaeran. The ships had played a very important role and were the key which led the Korean navy to win in the sea battles. The turtle ships are the pronoun of Yosu as well as Admiral Lee because they were built in Yosu. So far there is no documents, written during the war, to describe in detail about the turtle ships : when, where, and how many they were made. Moreover, we do not know their shape and size during the war.

As soon as Lee was transferred, he was very busy to prepare the war for one year and two months. He checked the six ports in his sector and made the signal systems to communicate each towns with the smokes. Also, to reinforce his fleets, he made a wonderful warship.

The typical symbol of Admiral Lee was the turtle ships during Imjinwaeran. The ships had played a very important role and were the key which led the Korean navy to win in the sea battles. The turtle ships are the pronoun of Yosu as well as Admiral Lee because they were built in Yosu. So far there is no documents, written during the war, to describe in detail about the turtle ships : when, where, and how many they were made. Moreover, we do not know their shape and size during the war.

However, now a days, we easily can see the turtle ships in any places, in the streets, on the coins and bills. Then, where did we get the drawing of the turtle ships? In 1795, two hundreds years after Admiral Lee died in the sea battle, the King Jeungjo who respected Lee published the book to memorize Admiral Lee. For this book, they gathered all the historical data. But, for the turtle ships, they wrote and drew the shape of the turtle ships which were built in the reign of the King Jeungjo because they had not had any records about them during the war. So, there are two types of the turtle ships, in the war and in the reign of the King Jeungjo. Nobody knows if these types are exactly matched in the shape and the size or not. Just we can guess that the two may be quite similar to each other in spite of the gap of 200 years because the scientific and the technical progress were not rapid in that time. The turtle ships we see now a days are not from the war, but from the King Jeungjo.

Here, we mention the documents about the turtle ships just before and during the war.

[A] The documents about the turtle ship just before and during Imjinwaeran

From Admiral Lee's War Diary
[8 February, 1592] The 29 rolls of cloth to make the sails of the turtle ships were supplied in the morning.
[27 March, 1592] After breakfast in the morning early, I went out to Sopo by the boat to check installing the chains in the turtle ships. I watched that the turtle ships were building in the morning, and then, I checked the artilleries which would be set up in the turtle ships.
[11 April, 1592] Finally, the turtle ships were launched on the water.
[12 April, 1592] After lunch, I had the fire test of the artilleries in the turtle ships. (It was just two days before Imjinwaeran. Maybe, he had predicted the war exactly and the building of the turtle ships might be his reaction for the unstable future of Korea.)

From his report, the Battle in Dangpo
(This report was written by Lee to inform the King Seunjo of his achievements in the second movement. The turtle ships had taken part in the sea battles for the first time since the war.)

"Several years ago, I already predicted the Japanese invasion. I have built the new war ships for the war. The ship looks like the turtle. I put the dragon head in front of the ship to fire the artilleries from its mouth. On the roof, there are long and sharp iron spikes which prevented the invaders from boarding on it. The sides are covered with the boards which have the port holes. The holes are designed that we can see outside but the enemy could not see inside. It can rush into the center of the enemy fleets and fire the artilleries to four directions. In this battle, the turtle ships carried out dramatically their mission as the vanguards when I faced the enemies. They were really successful."

From the document written by Boon Lee

"When Admiral Lee was transferred to Yosu, he mentioned the Japanese invasion. First, he checked the weapons and machinery in the headquarter and all of the bases of Cholla Left Navy. We repaired the weapons and made more. One day he drew a war ship on the paper. The ship was covered with the board on the top. The top has a narrow cross path to pass on it and other places were covered with the sharp iron spikes. Also, it has the dragon head which has a fire hole in the mouth. The backside, similar to the turtle' tail, has the fire holes, too. Each left and right side has the six fire holes. We call the ship the turtle because overally it is similar to the turtle.

In the battles, the turtle ships were always the vanguards. At first, we covered its top with the cloth to hide the spikes. The invaders who jumped on the top from their ships were killed. We successfully cheated them. Although we face the hugh Japanese fleets, we were not scared because the turtle ship rushed into the deep place of the invaders' fleets and fired the artilleries from the four sides to make the enemies out of control. We could win all the battles with the turtle ship."

[B] The documents about the turtle ship in the reign of the King Jeungjo

The turtle ship of the Unified Navy in the reign of the King Jeungjo
This documents written about the turtle ship which used in Unified Navy of the three Southern States (Tongjeyoung) in the reign of the King Jeungjo, 200 years after the war. Its shape is in the left side.

[The turtle ship of the Unified Navy in the reign of the King Jeungjo]

The turtle ship of Cholla Left Navy

Cholla Left Navy also left the records about the turtle ship in the reign of the King Jeungjo. Its shape is in the left side.

[The turtle ship of Cholla Left in the reign of the King Jeungjo]

The turtle ship of Cholla Left has almost same in the shape and the size with them of the Unified Navy. Under the dragon head, however, the devil's face is sculptured and there are two fire holes in the left and right sides of the face. Each side of the ship has the 2 doors.

In 1980, the modern Korean Navy made the turtle ship according to the documents written by the King Jeungjo to study it. It cost about US$270,000 (exchange rate : US$1 = 870 Korean Won). Its total length was 112.3 feet, the ship length 83.5 feet, width 83.5 feet, height 20.9 feet, weight 150 ton, the velocity 3 nots (with the sail 5∼7 nots), artilleries 14, and the crew 130. Its side drawing for foundation is in the bottom.

[The side drawing]

Many historians have pored over a great puzzle concerning the turtle ships : how many turtle ships were built and put into the war in the world? Without detail records, they could not make the clear conclusion. In 1979, a group of inspectors consisted of the historians made a report after they visited Yosu to study Seunso, the historical site where the turtle ships were built. In the report, they guessed that Lee built three turtle ships just before the war.

2) Blocking sea road with iron chains

Lee made chain blocks in the sea against the enemy. He set the iron chains from Sopo, the east side of Cholla Left Navy, to Dolsan Island, the opposite side of Sopo, on the water. Lots of big woods were tied with the chain not to make the iron chains sunk. The chains on the water were also connected with the rocks under the water by the ropes not to move by the tide. In his war diary, he wrote that he managed this work everyday for several months.

4. The military meeting in the Jinhaeroo

(Jinhaeroo was the building of headquarter of Cholla Left before the war. It was burnt in the war and rebuilt after the war 1599.)

Imjinwaeran was the seven-year war. But the battles were not continued for 7 years. They were fierce in the first year of the war, the Imjin Year (1592), and at the end of the war, the Jeungyou and Musul Year (from 1597 to 1598). For the rest 5 years, the both parts did not have the serious battles apparently because there was a negotiation for cease-fire between the Japanese invaders and the Chinese Ming army, the reinforcements for Korea. So, the sea battles can be classified into the Imjin battles in the first year of the war, and the Jeungyou battles at the end of the war. When the negotiation was broken, the battles between the Lee's fleets and the invaders were fiercely held again in the southern coasts form the Jeungyou Year, 1597.

It was in the Imjin battles that Cholla Left Navy successfully destroyed the Japanese fleets and accomplished the distinguished achievements. Here, we talk about the Imjin battles because they were the starting point of the war and saved Korea from the serious crisis.

Admiral Lee was notified the war for the first time by the report from Kyun Won, the commander of Kyungsang Right Navy, about at 8 o'clock A.M. on 15 April, the next day of Imjinwaeran. He wrote in the report:

"I got an urgent report from Cheun, the governor of Karduk Island, at 10 o'clock in this morning (on 14 April). He told me that about 90 Japanese ships had appeared in front of Pusan port from at 4 o'clock P.M. yesterday (on 13 April). He already moved his army in all the bases by himself to react the unexpected accidents and ordered the top officer of Dadaepo navy base to dispatch the war ships to the sea to face the Japanese ships. But I think they are the trading ships which used to come to Korea annually. Just I do not know why they took so many ships in this time. I already alerted the emergency to all the navy bases of my sector, Kyungsang Right Navy. I am checking the war ships and sent several soldiers to Karduk and Pusan port to get more information what is going on there."

As soon as Admiral Lee read the report from Won, he immediately alerted the emergency in his bases and called urgently all the top officers and his staffs to have the meeting. He also sent rapidly Won's report to Ukee Lee, the commander of Cholla Right Navy, to Kwang Lee, the governor of Cholla state, and to Won Choi, the commander of the Cholla army. He recognized the war he predicted just broke.

Soon, Lee got four more urgent reports from Won, and continuously the other reports about the invasion from Soo Kim, the governor of Kyungsang state, and from Sungil Kim, the commander of Kyungsang army. The situation kept Admiral Lee in suspense. One of the grievous wars was just begun, the war which totally devastated Korea and gave the great pain to the Korean people for seven years.

The Japanese invaders who showed their ships in Pusan port at 4 o'clock on 13 April, started the attack it at 6 o'clock in the morning on 14 April and occupied one of the largest port of Korea in a day. They exterminated the Korean army led by Sanghyun Song, the governor of Dongrae, in the north of Pusan and occupied Dongrae on 16 April. They massacred and raped brutally the people in Pusan and Dongrae, and advanced to the north.

At that time, the reaction of the Korean navy in Kyungsang state was not known. Just we can guess that Kyungsang Left Navy led by Hong Park and Right led by Kyun Won were totally collapsed by the Japanese fleets. Won survived and ran away to Cholla Left with just the 6 or 7 ships. It was really regretable because Kyungsang navy were much larger and had more ships (경상우수영이나
경상좌수영의 각 75척 12000여명에 비해 작은 규모였다) than Cholla navy (전라좌수영은 전함 25척과 해군 4000여명으로 편제된 해군 ) . If they had defended Pusan successfully, the war would not have been such cruel to the Korean people.

Receiving the report to order him to make military movement to reinforce the Kyungsang state from government, Lee ordered all the ships of his sector to concentrate in Yosu port and had a another meeting, on 20 April, to discuss the issue in Jinhaeroo with the governors and the top officers of his sector.

In the meeting, most of them objected to move to Kyungsang with the reason that their fleets were not stronger than Japanese. They wanted to stay in Cholla Left to defend their own sector. But Heerip Song, the general of Cholla Left, insisted the movement. He told, "Yosu should not be safe under the national crisis. As a soldier, I can't let the barbarians over the border line. Although I die in the war, I'm not be afraid because it's what I have to do for the king and the people." Admiral Lee was very glad to hear it. He told, "we can't be delinquent when we face the national crisis. Only one thing we have to do now is going to fight and die in the battle. I will be first. I will make the movement in the morning early on 4 May. Anyone who doesn't follow my order will be executed without trial."

Cholla left navy became very busy to make the movement. He executed Okcheun Whang, the lower officer, who was arrested as he ran away. But he still worried that all of his men were extremely afraid of the Japanese invaders and the morale did not exist. Furthermore, he was not familiar with the topography of the Kyungsang coasts and it was not easy to get the information of the progress of the war in Kyungsang state.

Admiral Lee's Movements in the Imjinwaeran
[ The first Movement ] [ The Second Movement ]
The Third Movement ] [ The Fourth Movement ]

Sources :

내용출처 : [기타] 인터넷 :

Publié dans Battles

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