Korea’s exalted warrior

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Korea’s exalted warrior

The following is a lesson on Korean history in response to a query from a Mr. Cohen, who wrote to us from Seoul:

Q. Mr. Cohen:
Every time we expats in Seoul meet downtown, instead of using the street name Gwanghwamun, we point to the bronze statue of a ferocious-looking man in armor, which everyone seems to know. Who is he, anyhow?

The statue is of Admiral Yi Sun-shin (1545-1598) from the Joseon dynasty. He is one of the most famous and revered individuals in Korean history, for fearlessly defending Korea’s South Sea border from the Japanese invasion during the Seven-Year War.

He was an outstanding strategist who invented the geobukseon, or “turtle ship,” whose steel cover gave it the semblance of a turtle. Despite his bravery and patriotism, the admiral spent time behind bars due to the political turmoil roiling the country at the time.

Detailed records of the war display the admiral’s literary talent and are chronicled in his personal journal, “War Diary of Admiral Yi Sun-shin.” They are written in both prose and poetry.

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