Battle of Noryang

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wants to point out that today is the anniversary of the great naval battle of Noryang.

What? Never heard of the battle of Noryang?

Well… It was the great battle in 1598 that was the last major engagement of the Japanese invasions of Korea during the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (the Taiko).

Here is the Wiki page on the battle.

The major figure in this engagement was Admiral Yi Sun-Sin, the Korean commander. Admiral Yi has been described as the Nelson of the East. (Although given the time difference, perhaps it would be better to describe Nelson as the Yi of the West.)

Now you may be saying to yourself, “My, my. My Maximum Leader is such a learned man that he can spout off famous naval battles of the East as well as the West…” Well, let your Maximum Leader set you a little straight. While he is mostly self-taught in what he knows of Korean, Japanese and Chinese history, this is a special case. (NB: your Maximum Leader did take a year long course on Chinese history in college. It was a great class, but as with all survey classes you wind up missing a lot of good stuff in the name of getting everything in…)

Why is the battle of Noryang and Admiral Yi a special case you may be wondering? Well let your Maximum Leader tell you.

Your Maximum Leader’s best bud Kevin is part Korean as you may know. At Kevin’s house was (and still may be) a model of a turtle ship. Admiral Yi used turtle ships against the Japanese. They were his fast assault ships. Now, your Maximum Leader has always had a love for things naval, and a fairly large model of a turtle ship in his friends house was pretty damned cool. Many years later Kevin gave your Maximum Leader a carved statue of a pretty kick-ass looking warrior as a gift. At first your Maximum Leader thought the statue was just your run-of-the-mill Korean warrior. Indeed, your Maximum Leader thought it was a Korean “samurai.” Your Maximum Leader was sorely mistaken. The carved statue was in fact a replica of a famous statue of Admiral Yi. (If you click through on Yi’s link above you will see the statue in question. You will also see that Admiral Yi looks like a veritable badass. Indeed, your Maximum Leader should suggest Admiral Yi to Ben Thompson of Badass of the Week.) So, for many years your Maximum Leader has had a statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin in his office/room/home. His children have asked who the “samurai” was in the past and he’s had to set them straight. Just a little while ago the Wee Villain asked if he could borrow the statue of Admiral Yi. When asked why the Wee Villain responded that he couldn’t find his Darth Vader action figure and he wanted a big guy with a sword to use “against the Barbies.”

Your Maximum Leader let the Wee Villain play with the statue for a while… Seeing as his motives were pure…

Carry on.

4 Comments »
Kevin Kim said:

Mike, I’m sure you remember the enormous intersection at Kwanghwamun, the downtown area of Seoul that’s down the street from the bustling Chongno district, where I used to work back in the mid-90s. Admiral Yi’s imposing statue has long stood in the middle of that intersection, where it truly does look as if Darth Vader were the city’s patron saint. However, I don’t know whether you heard that the area around Admiral Yi has been remade into a pedestrian zone.

While I think it’s way cool to allow citizens up that close to the statue, I thought it was an insane idea to strip any surface area away from the intersection. I haven’t heard how the new setup has affected traffic, but I imagine that, at the beginning, the whole thing must have been a nightmare for commuters.

Koreans claim that the turtle ships are the first example of large, ironclad warships anywhere in the world. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, that’s pretty awesome.

Cool post on Admiral Yi. I didn’t know today was the anniversary of that naval battle. Man-sae!

(NB: “man-sae” is the Korean way to say “Banzai!” Both expressions are from two Chinese characters that, together, mean “ten thousand [man] years [sae].” In East Asian reckoning, ten thousand is a symbolic number signifying “myriad,” so “man-sae” and “banzai” might reasonably be translated as a shout of “Forever!” or, if it’s being shouted as a tribute, “Long live [so-and-so],” as in “Yi Sun-shin MAN-SAE!” Think of “Conan the Barbarian” or “Starship Troopers,” where characters shout, “Do you wanna live forever?” before a great undertaking. “Man-sae” is the same idea.)



I do indeed remember the statue in Seoul. In part I remember because I had been looking at the wooden replica in my room for years. I think you might have given it to me in 1984 or so.

I have read about the iron-clad turtle ships and there seems to be some debate among naval historians and naval archeologists about how “iron-clad” the turtle ships were. I think there is mention of this contraversy on the wiki page. At best the “roof” of the ship above the main deck was clad with iron. My own opinion, for what it is worth, lay on the side of the iron being a minor feature (and possibly ornimental) of the ship. Adding too much iron would have seriously slowed down the ships - which were fast assault ships. I can’t imagine a mostly oar powered ship moving swiftly if it was iron-clad.

I will join in a round of Man-sae! for the good Admiral.



Charles said:

That pedestrian zone in front of Gwanghwamun now sports another statue, one of King Sejong the Great. So now we have Korea’s greatest military hero and Korea’s greatest cultural hero chilling together in the center of town.

Believe it or not, I have yet to walk this pedestrian zone, despite the fact that I live about a half an hour (and change) away from it, and have been within spitting distance of it (I was at Kyobo Bookstore not too long ago). I’ll have to make it point to get out there soon.



I remember the Kyobo Bookstore. I was very impressed by their foreign language books sections. I have two Korean history books that I bought there when I visited Kevin.

Is the statue of King Sejong as impressive as Admiral Yi’s? That would be quite a pair.



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