Class discusses feats of nation’s greatest admiral

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Class discusses feats of nation’s greatest admiral


Participants in the yearlong Yi Sun-sin Academy listen to a lecture presented by Kim Jong-dae about the admiral’s early years. Provided by Chungmu Art Hall

On Aug. 11, leaders from across society gathered at the Chungmu Art Hall, in Jung District, central Seoul, to learn about and discuss Admiral Yi Sun-sin (1545-1598), one of the greatest naval commanders in Korean history.

Korea’s most celebrated naval commander is renowned for his victories against Japanese invaders during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), which were deemed major contributions in driving out enemy forces. His achievements continue to be immortalized in dramas and films, and more than 15 million people so far have flocked to theaters to see the most recent retelling, “The Admiral: Roaring Currents,” released on July 30.

The gathering was a class of the Yi Sun-sin Academy, a yearlong course launched last month by Kim Jong-dae, 66, a former constitutional judge who has studied the admiral for about 40 years, and Choi Chang-sik, 62, the head of the Jung District Office.

Kim Jong-hoon, the 65-year-old president of Hanmi Global, a project management company, was among the students. During the class, he gave a presentation about Yi’s early years, from the time the famous naval commander was just a low-ranking officer in Hamgyong Province, in what is now North Korea, to when he served as the governor of Jeongeup, South Jeolla.

“Admiral Yi Sun-sin even cared for his friend who was branded as a traitor and imprisoned,” Kim said in his presentation. “He regarded faith and loyalty as very important.”

Lee Jae-in, the head of the Korea Childcare Promotion Institute, chimed in: “Yi was indeed a man of loyalty.”

Participants of the course get together on the second Monday of every month and take turns presenting material about Admiral Yi to the class.

Afterward, Kim Jong-dae offers supplementary explanations.

“Did you know that Admiral Yi was also a great army officer, too?” the former constitutional judge asked. “He served 13 years of his entire 21-year service in the ground forces. In his 30s, when he was a low-ranking officer, he gained a reputation for capturing the leader of enemy forces, who were located north of Korea at the time.”

Kim added, “He was able to achieve glorious victories at sea because he practiced hard when he was in the ground forces.”

Once the yearlong course wraps, its participants will tour historical sites related to the commander and write papers.

“Admiral Yi should be a model for government workers,” said Choi, the head of the district office who is also enrolled in the class. “Civil servants should learn by his example to better serve the people.”

Some also plan to educate the young generation about the admiral’s feats and conduct on and off the battlefield.

“Founders of our school refer to him as a hero saint,” said Ha Tae-eun, the head of a Won Buddhism youth education center. “Admiral Yi Sun-sin would be a great role model for teenagers.”

The main reason for studying Yi is to learn about his spirit and ethics and help spread those values to society, Kim Jong-dae added.

“Only being astounded by his victory with 13 battleships against a fleet of 330 Japanese warships is not truly appreciating his achievements,” he said.


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