Koreans’ battle against Japanese imperialism and its blatant invasions, and their subsequent foundation of a modern nation, led them to rediscover several heroes within their own history. Admiral Yi Sun-shin, who fought the Japanese forces during the Imjin Waeran and saved the Korean people, was one of the historical figures praised most highly. But his glorious victories and achievements had already been praised and honored since the midJoseon dynasty. When meritorious attainers were being appointed right after the Imjin Waeran, the victories that Yi Sun-shin had achieved in his sea battles were being cited as part of the major factors that contributed to the repelling of the Japanese troops. Quite oddly, though, Admiral Weon Gyun’s victories were being highly spoken as well for political reasons. After the Byeongja Horan, the level of praises and honoring of the achievements of Admiral Yi Sun-shin became more heightened, and countless occasions to honor him and his achievements were continuously arranged. After the defeat under the Chinese Qing dynasty troops at the time, Korean people’s worshipping of a competent military leader who repelled enemy forces with superior power was higher and stronger than ever. During the reign of King Sukjong, the honoring of Yi Sun-shin took on another level of interest, as Yi Sun-shin came to be praised as a loyal vassal of the King who served the Joseon king well and also saved the civilization of Ming China that was flourishing on the Korean peninsula. This was because the general sentiment of the time was that Joseon was the true successor of the cultural essence of Ming China in all possible ways. During the modern times, Yi Sun-shin’s status was once again elevated to that of a national hero, and the Turtle Ship (Geobukseon) developed by him is perceived and believed to be the world’s first armored ship. But during the Japanese colonial period, some revised nationalists demoted him as an exemplary person and not a national hero. Several evaluations of Yi Sun-shin with different nuances continued even after the liberation in 1945. Especially during the early days of the Park Chung Hee regime, Yi Sun-shin was praised as a savior of the nation, and he was praised as an honorary person who was truly loyal during the 1970s when the authoritative regime continued. Different evaluations on Yi Sun-shin remind us of the unfortunate days when presidents had the power to influence the objects of worship.
IntroductionPraising of Yi Sun-shin in Late JoseonThe Change in Understanding Yi Sun-shin since the Twentieth CenturyConclusionReferences
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