[FOUNTAIN]A symbol of bravery returns to Korea“How can one look after his house when the country is perishing and how can a child leave the ground of his father? Although we are weak and the castle is isolated, we can still hope for victory since our cause is just and we have fair reasons for what we have to say. Throw away useless doubts and make sure to keep a resolute mind.”
This is the written appeal, “Changuitowae,” of Jeong Mun-bu, a general who led a volunteer army against the Japanese invasion in 1592 in Hamgyeong province. Changuitowae means a call to defeat the Japanese with loyal volunteer troops. Jeong Mun-bu was only 28 years old and his post in the government was not very high, but the people showed deep confidence in him. The loyal volunteer troops started by chastising the traitors who had captured and handed over Prince Imhaegun and Prince Sunhwagun to the Japanese when the troops of Kiyomasa Kato took over Hamgyeong province, 3 months after the invasion. After that, Jeong Mun-bu defeated the Japanese troops in the battles of Jangpyeong, Immyeong and Dancheon.
In 1593, Jeong Mun-bu defeated 20,000 Japanese troops with only 3,000 volunteer soldiers at the battle of Baektapgyo. Kato led the troops himself in an effort to save the isolated Japanese troops in Gilju, but failed due to the surprise attacks by the loyal Korean troops who knew the geography of the region well. Kato was one of the best warriors in Japan and was praised as one of the “seven best lancers,” but he could not win over the strategies and bravery of the volunteer Korean troops.
As a whole, the small and large victories of Jeong Mun-bu’s loyal volunteer troops are called “Bukgwandaecheop,” or a great victory in Bukgwan. During King Sukjong’s reign, a monument was erected in Gilju in commemoration of the victory. This is the Bukgwandaecheopbi.
In 1905, during the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese army dug out the monument and placed it at the Yaskuni Shrine, the symbol of militarism. The Japanese might have thought by taking the monument they could get rid of the shame of their defeats.
The Bukgwandaecheopbi is returning to Korea after 100 years. It is a result of the endless effort of the citizens and a cooperative effort by North and South Korea.
The monument will be displayed in South Korea for a while and then returned to Gilju in North Korea, where it belongs.
“Because my heart is burning with worries about the fate of our fatherland, every strand of hair is turning grey.” Let us hope the patriotism of the loyal General Jeong shown in the poem is preserved for good along with the monument.
by Lee Sang-il
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.