Great People of Korea (3)


18. Choi Mu-Seon (1325 – 1395)
Choi Mu-Seon was an inventor best known for the production of Korea’s first gunpowder and cannons. During the Goryeo dynasty, he had already recognized the importance of gunpowder weapons, and suggested the establishment of a state institution committed to producing them. His inventions played a crucial role in defeating Japanese raiders. His gunpowder production techniques were passed on to his son, and later contributed to the strengthening of the Joseon dynasty’s defenses.

19. Jeon Bong-Jun (1855 – 1895)
Jeon Bong-Jun was a leader of the Donghak Peasant Movement, which was a large-scale resistance movement against traditional feudalism and foreign invasions. Donghak was an indigenous Korean religion, which was founded in 1860 and later became the Cheondogyo religion. His first uprising was in 1894 against corrupt local bureaucrats. He also led a nationwide protest against Japanese invasions until his eventual arrest and execution.

20. Wonhyo (617 – 686)
Wonhyo was a respected Buddhist monk of Silla kingdom, who made a great contribution to the development of Korean Buddhism. Buddhism is a religion that has long influenced the life and thoughts of Koreans. He created extensive written work about Buddhism, and committed his life to disseminating the religion among the people. His teachings were even introduced to China, and marked an epoch in the world’s history of Buddhism. 

21. Mun Ik-Jeom (1329 – 1398)
Mun Ik-Jeom is recognized as “a person who improved people’s lives” because he brought great benefits to people by cultivating and distributing cotton. The introduction of cotton cloth made fabric production simpler and more efficient. The previous methods of fabric production were time-consuming and labor-intensive. Due to its high production efficiency, cotton cloth became Korea’s major export, and contributed to the national economy.

22. Jeong Yak-Yong (1762 – 1836)
Jeong Yak-Yong, also known by his pen-name Dasan, was a prominent Confucian scholar and official during the late Joseon dynasty. He is highly recognized for his contribution to compiling Silhak literature, which emphasized practical learning and social reform. He spent many years living in exile, but he used the time to organize and develop his philosophy. He wrote over 500 books in broad areas, including politics, economics and society. His line of work is called “Dasanhak” and it has received considerable attention from many scholars.

23. Yi Sun-Sin (1545 – 1598)
Yi Sun-Sin was an admiral and Korean national hero who protected the country against Japanese invaders during the national crisis of the Imjin War. Throughout his career, he had to overcome extreme adversities in battles and personal challenges, such as vicious slanders against him and subsequent political ordeals. His life provides an endless source for Korean novels, dramas and movies, and he has become immortal in the minds of Koreans.

24. Jang Bo-Go (?– 846)
Jang Bo-Go was a general of Silla kingdom, who established the Cheonghaejin naval base in today’s Wando Island. Using Cheonghaejin, he was able to defeat pirates, gain control of the ocean, and secure safe trade routes that connected Silla with China and Japan. His reputation as an international trader was recorded in several historical documents in Korea, China and Japan.

25. Kim Man-Deok (1739 – 1812)
Kim Man-Deok was a successful and altruistic businesswoman in Jejudo Island, who saved numerous people’s lives during the Joseon dynasty. As a woman and a slave, she had to overcome many disadvantages before finally becoming a great merchant. However, she decided to spend her entire fortune to save people from a famine caused by an extreme drought in 1795. Her generosity greatly impressed the people of the period and still impresses the people of today.

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