What I’ve discovered
A particular favourite of mine, Admiral Yi Sun-Sin (1545-1598) was a man of great honour, courage and loyalty.
In his war diaries I read of a man completing his duties in spite of life’s problems; be it a common cold
or the death of his mother.
Admiral Yi won the hearts of his men and designed the famed turtle boats (Kobukson), which were like
floating fortresses, over 30 metres long and armour plated, they had spikes on top to prevent the
The Kobukson had a form of smoke screen, which came out of the ‘dragon’s mouth’ at the front of the
boat and also shot flames of sulphur and gunpowder, like an ancient flame-thrower.
Admiral Yi had his men make salt in order to provide the money for all of his supplies.
His Kobukson were able to destroy a great number of enemy ships in many encounters; one of these
famous encounters was the Hansan-do sea battle where 73 Japanese ships were destroyed using Yi’s
famous ‘Crane Wing’ formation.
Much free time was spent in practising archery and this time was proven well spent, when Yi’s best
archer shot an arrow through the Japanese Admiral’s throat while he sat aboard his ship; thus
scattering the fleet in a panic.
Yi’s tactics were to pursue and ram the Japanese, his traps and inventions were the keys to his success
and he was able to prevent the enemy receiving supplies and reinforcements.
It was at this time that the inner court of the Korean Government was in inner turmoil with disputes
making any kind of decision-making very difficult.
Admiral Yi faced constant enmity from the jealous Admiral Won Kyun, who repeatedly falsified
reports and orders in order to harm Admiral Yi in the eyes of the Court.
Admiral Won got the title Supreme Naval Commander after false accusations finally resulted in
Admiral Yi’s imprisonment.
Admiral Yi was accused of: ’Stealing the hearts of the people and attempting to usurp the throne of
the king.’ (Korea- Forty Three Centuries, Tae Hung Ha)
Because of Admiral Yi’s many victories over the Japanese navy he had many supporters at Court,
instead of facing the death sentence for treason; Yi was imprisoned and demoted to a common foot
Yi Sun-Sin took this demotion with humility and continued to serve his country as best he could.
Admiral Won Kyun was repeatedly beaten by the Japanese fleet; his failure to defeat the Japanese,
resulted in his capture and beheading.
The Court finally found Admiral Yi to be innocent of all charges.
It was after this that Admiral Yi was once again promoted to Supreme Naval Commander; with only 12
of his ships remaining and gathering 120 of his men en route; he was again victorious in battle at sea.
He finally died during yet another battle, when at the moment of victory, he was caught by a stray
bullet and Admiral Yi is reported to have requested that his men not be told until
after the battle was over.
‘Do not weep! Do not announce my death! Beat the drum! We are still fighting!
Finish the enemy to the last one!’ (ibid.)
The posthumous title awarded in 1643, Choong-Moo represents Loyalty and Chivalry.
In his encyclopaedia General Choi told us:
Choong-Moo was the name given to the great Admiral Yi Sun-Sin of the Lee Dynasty.
He was reputed to have invented the first armoured battleship (Kobukson) in 1592,
which is said to be the precursor to the present day submarine.
The reason why this pattern ends with a left hand attack is to symbolize his
regrettable death, having no chance to show his unrestrained potentiality, checked by
the forced reservation of his loyalty to the king.