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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Hansan Island, TongYeong, Southern Gyeongsang: Tribute to Admiral Yi Sunshin

Mai Asagiri recites a sijo (Korean Poem) written by Admiral Yi Sunshin. It looks like that admiral was a poetic person.
Hansan Island (Hanja: 閑山島), located in the middle of Hallyeo-Haesang National Park (Specific Location: Hansan-myeon, TongYeong City, Southern Gyeongsang Province), is an important historical site. This is where Admiral Yi Sunshin (Born: 1545 - Killed in Action: 1598 - Final Battle of Noryang Point) won his great victory using the "Turtle Boat a.k.a Geobukseon" (an ironclad warship shaped as a tortoise) by commanding the naval forces of Chungcheong, Jeolla and Gyeongsang Provinces at the beginning of the Japanese Imjin Invasion of Korea (1592-1598). 

The area around the island was the site of a Battle of Hansan Island during the Imjin Wars where Admiral Yi Sunshin decisively defeated the main Japanese war fleet led by Wakizaka Yasuharu. Following the battle, Admiral Yi moved his main naval base from Yeosu, Southern Jeolla to Hansan Island, as it was strategically advantageous for conducting surveillance and reconnaissance of the nearby Gyeonnaeryang Strait (견내량해협, 見乃梁海峽), which was an inland route leading directly to the main Japanese base located at Busan.

After King Seonjo ordered Admiral Yi Sunshin's arrest, imprisonment, and torture - Admiral Won Gyun was assigned to lead the Korean navy during the Naval Battle of Chilcheollyang Strait. However, Won Gyun attacked the Japanese base at Busan, ignoring the tides, and was forced to retreat owing to shelling from the shore. The Japanese navy pursued him relentlessly and sank all but thirteen of the Panokseon in the process. Won Gyun together with Admiral Yi Eok-gi was killed during this disastrous retreat, Hansan Island and its evacuated naval base, was exposed to the Japanese forces, who eventually burned it down. The Naval Battle of Chilcheollyang Strait was the first and most disastrous defeat for Joseon Navy.

After the war, Joseon naval base was reconstructed, Yi was rehabilitated, and went on to defeat he Japanese with the remaining 13 Panokseons from Chilcheollyang Strait which were brought by Commander Bae Seol during the Naval Battle of Myeongnyang Strait.

'Those willing to die will live, and those willing to live will die.'
That was an encouragement speech by Admiral Yi before the Battle of Myeongnyang Strait in October 26th, 1597.
In Hansan Island, a 960 square km large forest is blanketed with camellias and old red pines. In the woods, there is Jeseungdang, which was the strategic headquarters of Admiral Yi Sunshin where he commanded the war for five years during Imjin Invasion in 1592. Jeseungdang has a five-page documentary called Chungmugong that recorded the activities of that admiral which depicts the events of that period. You can also see the barracks, The Suru Watch Tower, Chungmusa Shrine and Hansanjeong, where soldiers were trained in archery. The Suru Watch Tower overlooks a fine view of the sea, along with a view of Jeseungdang. 

The active cultivation of oysters, ascidians, brown seaweed and pearls is attracting more tourists to this area. The coast of Hansan Island has also become a famous fishing spot.