A Naval Genius in Admiral Yi Sun-Sin

In Gwanghamun Square, Admiral Yi Sun-sin stands guard over the city of Seoul. He is considered a National Hero. I came by here see the 12.23 Fountain. This special number is to remember the 23 battles he fought with 12 warships. The fountain has water jets that rise up to 18 metres along with 300 smaller jets. That would have been a beautiful display.

But that night, there was no fountain. Maybe it was too late or they turn off the fountain after a certain time. I don’t entirely know for sure. So I was a bit disappointed.As such, there are no photos of this amazing fountain. Instead, here are some interesting historical facts about the Admiral.

He started with little or no naval training. But his amazing tactical genius confounded the enemy constantly. His greatest achievement occurred during the Battle of Myeongnyang.

In this battle, Admiral Yi’s fleet was outnumbered completely against the Japanese Navy. His fleet of only 13 ships was dwarfed by the Japanese navy of 333 warships! Testament to his genius, he successfully out maneuvered them all and in the end, the Japanese lost. Admiral Yi’s rock star status as a hero was thereon in cemented forever. In fact, that particular battle is considered in naval history as one of the greatest naval achievements of all time in terms of disproportionate resources.

Tragically he was killed only a year later, by a stray arquebuser bullet. But before his death, he said “The war is at its height — wear my armor and beat my war drums. Do not announce my death.” His nephew did just that, putting on Yi’s armour, beating his war drums and rallying his army to pursue the retreating Japanese until it was done. When his death was found out soon after, the entire army mourned his passing. Tributes and shrines, both official and unofficial, sprung up all over the country to remember him.

Admiral Togo, one of Japans’ greatest naval heroes in the last century and widely considered by western historians as the “Nelson of the East” considered Admiral Yi a superior. He said once at a party in his honour, “It may be proper to compare me with Nelson, but not with Korea’s Yi Sun-sin, for he has no equal.

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