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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Koihime Musou Girls and Famous Koreans, LARGE Edition! (Part II): Sun Quan and Vice Admiral Sohn Won-yil (1909-1980) - Forefather of Republic of Korea Navy


Vice Admiral Sohn Won-yil (Hangul/Hanja/Romanization: 손원일/孫元一/Son Won-il; Born: May 5th 1909 in Gangseo County, Southern Pyeongan Province, DPRK - Died: February 15th 1980 in Seoul Mapo-gu, ROK) was a South Korean navy vice admiral, best known for being the first Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and the founder of the Republic of Korea Navy. He was a member of Miryang Son Clan (밀양 손씨/密陽孫氏), a clan which is originated from Miryang City, Southern Gyeongsang Province - Home of Miryang Arirang.

Vice Admiral Sohn was the first son to Methodist Pastor, Sohn Jeong-do (who once served as the chairman of congress for the Provisional Government of Korea) and Park Shin-il. After graduating from the National Central University in Shanghai with a degree in navigation, he was sent to Germany to study, funded by the Chinese Navy. In 1930, he was arrested when he entered Korea as a secret liaison for a Shanghai independence group. When he was released the next year, he went to China. He came back to Korea as soon as Korea regained independence. 

Vice Admiral Sohn Won-yil, with the help of other important figures including Vice Admiral Jeong Geung-mo, established the Haesadae (해사대/海事隊/maritime affairs unit). He educated personnel after dividing them into two units: navigation and marine engineering. In order to resolve Haesadae's financial problems, it was merged with Haesabogukdan (해사보국단/海事報國團/maritime affairs corps for national defense) led by Captain Seok Eun-tae and renamed as Joseon Haesahyeophoe (조선해사협회/朝鮮海事協會/maritime affairs association).

When the US established a Military Government which is known as USAMGIK, representatives of the Haesahyeophoe explained that they were the only organization that could carry out maritime affairs. In turn, the US Military met with Admiral Sohn Won-yil to seek advice as to if it were possible to establish an organization that could perform coast guard tasks. Admiral Sohn Won-yil led negotiations with the US Military Government and reached an agreement: the Haebangbyeongdan (해방병단/海防兵團/Coastal Defense Force) would be established and he would command it as the first Chief. Under the motto “I devote my life to the nation and its people,” the Haebangbyeongdan was launched. This became the foundation for today’s ROK Navy November 11th was selected to mark the Navy’s image as the ‘gentlemen of the sea’. The Chinese letter ‘sa’ meaning ‘gentleman’ consists of two parts: ‘sib’ (meaning number 10) and ‘il’ (meaning number 1). The Navy’s commemoration day is still celebrated on November 11th, each year. 

Vice Admiral Sohn Won-yil held important positions throughout his career. In 1946, he served as the superintendent of the Coast Guard and the Commander in Chief. In 1947, he was inaugurated as the first Chief of Naval Operations. In 1952, he transferred to the first reserve as Navy Vice Admiral. From 1953 to 1956, he served as the Minister of National Defense. In 1957, he was appointed as the First Ambassador to Germany and served the position until 1960. In 1970, he was the president of Korea Oil, and in 1972 he was Chairman of the Public Information Association. From 1972 to 1974 he served as the Chief Director and Advisor to the Korea Anti-Communist League (present-day Korea Freedom League). In 1976, he served as the standing Advisor to the Korean International Culture Society. Through various patriotic services and posts, Vice Admiral Sohn Won-yil has contributed to national defense, diplomacy and society. 

In recognition of his great contributions and achievements, the late Vice Admiral Sohn Won-yil has received various awards and decorations: The Order of Military Merit, The Award of the US Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Taegeuk Order of Military Merit, Field Marshal Lord Eulji's Order of Military Merit (Gold Star), The War Medal for suppressing communist guerillas, Denmark Red Cross Medal, US Medal, The War Medal for the Korean War, The UN War Medal and Taegeuk Order of Military Merit (Gold Star).

In honor of Vice Admiral Sohn, the ROKS Sohn Won-yil (SS-072), the flagship of Type-214 Sohn Won-yil Class Submarines was commissioned in December 27th 2007, named after the forefather of Korean Republic Navy.