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Strategy Center

Surprising Ambush

One of the features in the strategies of Yi Sun-sin was the surprising ambush. Yi Sun-sin would set the goal for attack first, and he undertook all out attack after breaking down the spirit of the enemy by striking the target first.

On Dangpo Battle, he first had the turtle ship to attack the main ship of the enemy and use the Hyeonja Chongtong and various guns to break down the enemy battle ship, and shot the Japanese general Kurujima Michiyuki with the bow to drop him in the sea.

On Danghangpo Battle, the turtle ship was used as spearhead under the bottom part of the commanding ship and shot the Chongtong to break the enemy ship and the enemy commander was hit by the bow and fallen onto the sea. The ship without their general was very easy target and the Joseon naval force was able to totally destroy ships like this.

On Busanpo Battle and Myeongryang Battle, Yi Sun-sin remembered the fact that the Japanese force mainly moved around the commander that he penetrated the enemy fleet to destroy the commander ship first with the surprise attack. With these strategies, the turtle ships were very effective as the spearhead ships to penetrate the enemy fleet.

Strategy for Dangpa

Dangpa was a strategy to destroy the enemy ship by impact. During the Imjin War, the panokseon that was the main vessel of the Joseon naval force and the penetrator, turtle ship, had the guns loaded to have the general strategy on breaking down of the enemy battle ships by the shot by the guns.

The dangpa strategy with the turtle ship as the penetrating ship was effectively used in several s2s with Sacheon Battle of May 1592 as the first of its type. In addition to Sacheon Battle, Dangpo Battle, Busanpo Battle and others, the dangpa strategy by the turtle ship and panokseon for each strike impacted heavily to the enemy.

The reason for the Joseon naval force to destroy the enemy ship with the dangpa strategy was that the turtle ship and panokseon were stronger than the enemy ship as well as having much better capabilities of weapons loaded on the battle ship. Yi Sun-sin used the dangpa strategy on the basis of the accurate perception on the capability of both sides to gain his victories.

Strategy of Attack with Fire-arms

In strategies of Yi Sun-sin, most of battles displayed the strategy of attack with fire-arms. Strategy with fire-arms mean to use the fire-arms to burn down the enemy ship to sink that it was a general strategy displayed in most of battle in pre-modern period while the steel ships are yet to be developed. For example, most ships at the time were built with wood, and they were clearly vulnerable to fire. In addition, with the destructive power from the independent explosion like today, the strategy with fire-arm was the most effective strategy to sink a enemy ship. From the time of Okpo Battle, Yi Sun-sin recorded that "30 enemy ships were burnt down to cover the sky with smoke", and he had used the fire in many of his battles. And on his final battle of Noryang Battle in November 1598, the record said that, "approximately 200 enemy ships were burned down with many killed and captured", and as shown in the record, Yi Sun-sin used the fire arms in battles for the seven years of battles.

Strategy of Using Guns

Hyeonja chongtong

There were several factors for the Joseon naval force to be triumphant by turning the adverse situation in the situation around, one of the factors was the excellence in large guns. At the time, the turtle ship and panokseon were loaded with cheonja chongtong, jija chongtong, hyeonja chongtong, hwangja chongtong, byeolhwangja chongtong and others. And, the excellence on these gun was a great advantage for the Joseon naval force to undertake the strategy on guns to the fullest.

During the Imjin War, the Japanese naval force used its traditional strategy of getting on the ship for person-to-person physical confrontation. This strategy was mainly the strategy to jump on the ship of the enemy and use the personal weapon to kill the enemy, and this was from the strategy of the Japanese invader that looted private ships to take away the personal belongings. Thereafter, with the rifle introduced in the middle of the 16th century, the shooting strategy with the rifle was added to the existing strategy, but the overall strategy had not changed much.

On the other hand, the Joseon naval force facilitated the strategy with guns on the basis of its various large-sized guns loaded on both sides of the ships in addition to the dangpa strategy and fire-arm strategy. In particular, the guns of Joseon forces was much larger shooting distance than the rifles of Japanese forces that the Joseon naval force had the absolute advantage over the Japanese naval force, unlike the battle situation on land.

The Battle of Hansando was triggered by outstanding command and strategy of Yi Sun-sin, astonishing spirit and efforts of the Joseon naval force under his command, excellence of the turtle ship and panokseon, and the capability of the large-sized guns. In particular, the Hakik-jin formation was very similar to the formation used in the Battle of Trafalgar by Napoleon of France in later time and the strategy of Admiral Dogo Heihachiro of Japan when he destroyed the Baltic Fleet of Russia in the Korea Strait. A western war historian, G.A. Ballard, had the extreme praise that the strategy utilized by Yi Sun-sin was available only for the highly trained fleet with the surprising mobility of the time.

Appropriate Operation of Battle Formation

Looking into the formations that Yi Sun-sin facilitated in various battles at the time of the Imjin War, he had maneuvered a variety of formations.

The formation of Yi Sun-sin was literally full of changes with unlimited uses of strategies. The commanding capability of Yi Sun-sin was changed from time to time depending on situations, and accordingly, he selected the strategy that suits the situation from time-to-time for whatever the situation might present.

The battle ship formations that Yi Sun-sin enjoyed were generally Hakik-jin, Jangsajin and Hoengyeoljin. These formations were the facilitation of Eorin Hakik-jin, Paljingibeom and others. When battling, he thought of how to attack the enemy in what location, situation or formation, and appropriately operate it to bring out the best result from the battle.