Admiral Yi Sun-sin
Don’t make a hasty movement. Be like a mountain.
Move silently and cautiously
Yi’s statement to his generals before the battle of Okpo, stressing that they be calm and cautious in battle: The battle of Okpo was the first victory of the Korean Navy and Korean Army since the outbreak of the Imjin War (Okpopawaebyeongjang, May 10, 1592; Yi’s report to the King).
”Your Highness, I still have twelve battleships.”
King Seonjo sent a royal edict to Yi after the Korean Navy under General Won Gyun was nearly annihilated at the battle of Chilcheonllyang, saying “Close the navy. Concentrate on land warfare”. However, Yi strongly insisted that the Korean Navy should be maintained because he knew the importance of the navy better than anyone else. He later added one more ship. The Korean Navy under Yi’s leadership faced hundreds of enemy ships with a force of only thirteen ships, yet triumphed at the battle of Myeongnyang (Yi Chungmugong Haengnok ; Biography of Yi Sun-sin).
“Those who seek death shall live. Those who seek life shall die.”
Yi’s statement to his generals on the eve of the battle of Myeongnyang, stressing that they be mentally strong in battle: On the next day, Yi and his generals desperately fought against overwhelming odds, 13-133 (number of battleships), and triumphed (Nanjung Ilgi, September 15, 1597; Yi’s war diary).
”We are at the height of battle. Don’t let anybody know about my death!”
Yi’s last words: Yi Sun-sin was shot by an enemy bullet in the battle of Noryang against retreating Japanese forces on November 19, 1598. Even in the last moment of his life he was concerned about the war situation. In order to not discourage his soldiers, he said the famous phrase to his oldest son Hoe and his nephew Wan who were at his side. The battle concluded with a Korean victory (Yi Chungmugong Haengnok; Biography of Yi Sun-sin).
Song of Hansando (Nanjung Ilgi, August 15, 1597)
In the Hansando Island, under the bright moon,
While standing alone on the watchtower over the water,
With a big sword held tightly in my hand,
I am falling into a deep pit of agony,
The melody of a flute from somewhere adds more concern.
A Night in Hansando
The Sun falls into the vast sea in autumn,
A flock of wild geese, startled by coldness, flies high up into the sky,
During a restless night in agony,
The dawn moon, aloof, sheds light on bows and swords.
The Great Admiral Yi Sun-sin is the man to inspire Koreans in the 21st century. If a foreigner was to come to Korea and ask any Korean on the street, “Who is your greatest hero in Korean history,” one out of three would answer “Yi Sun-sin.” He has been loved by men and women of all ages for many years in Korea. Few historical figures remain as influential in the life of Koreans today as Yi.