Imjin waeran

Munnae-myeon, Haenam-gun, Jeollanam-do, 18 May 2016, 4:30pm. The battle of Myeongnyang, in October 1597, was Yi Sun-shin’s penultimate victory, and the last one that he came out of alive. His final victory, the Battle of Noryang, came in December 1598 in the narrow strait between Namhae and the mainland, when a stray bullet killed him. […]

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2016 travel diary 14: Journey towards Jindo and the Myeongnyang Monument

by Philip Gowman 18 May 2016
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Sancheong-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do, Wednesday 18 May 2016, 10am Sancheong -> Sacheon -> Suncheon We say our farewells to the mayor and tourism chief at the County administrative offices. Kyung-sook is driving me to Suncheon – about 90 minutes’ leisurely drive away – so that I can meet up with Insoon. She is scheduled to arrive in […]

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2015 Travel Diary day 10: Namhansanseong and the Gangnam Tombs

by Philip Gowman 7 June 2015
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Myeongdong, Seoul, Sunday 7 June The Mountain Fortress I am scheduled to meet a friend at 9:30 at Sanseong Station on Line 8. From there we take the bus (number 9) via a circuitous route through a residential area and up the steep hill to the main car park of one of Korea’s latest UNESCO […]

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2015 Travel Diary day 7: A King, two generals and a gisaeng

by Philip Gowman 4 June 2015
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Sancheong-gun, Thursday 4 June Having over-indulged the previous evening, I didn’t sleep well. Although I had set the alarm to wake me up for my early morning hike, I didn’t really need it. I get up at 6am, and Kyung-sook emerges from the other room soon afterwards. We are shortly on our way along the […]

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2012 Travel Diary #22: The Burial Grounds of the Royal Joseon Placentas, and why underfloor heating is not always good for you

by Philip Gowman 3 December 2012
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Sancheong Town, Gyeongsangnam-do, Sunday 1 April 2012. Yes, it’s 1 April, and no, this article is not an April Fool’s joke. Sunday in Sancheong town, and the National Assembly election campaign is in full swing. All along the main street, the ppongtchak trucks are parked nose to tail, probably about eight of them. All of […]

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2012 Travel Diary 7: Yi Sun-shin — military genius, hero, poet

by Philip Gowman 24 May 2012
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Tongyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do, Monday 26 March 2012. The brief ferry ride from Tongyeong to Hansando traverses the sheltered sound where Admiral Yi Sun-shin won a famous victory over the Japanese navy on 14 August 1592. On the day I crossed, it was difficult to imagine the tumult of a battle in which 47 Japanese ships were […]

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MacGyver and the Imjin War

by Matthew Jackson 30 October 2009
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I was puzzled when I learned that Koreans regard the time bomb as a proud addition to their list of inventions. This is because I associate the time bomb with incidents involving James Bond and MacGyver, in which the emphasis is on defusing the bomb and foiling the plans of an evil terrorist. Although it has […]

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The Turtle Ship

by Matthew Jackson 25 October 2009
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There is a story that when the nascent Korean shipping industry was attempting to raise capital, Barclays asked what the Koreans could provide in the way of security for the loan. The Korean executive is said to have taken a 500 won bill from his pocket, which featured the turtle ship of Yi Sun-sin, and […]

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Book Review: Admiral Yi Sun-sin

by Philip Gowman 18 May 2006
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A quick and easy read setting out the achievements of Admiral Yi in the Imjin war against Japan. As well as telling Yi’s story (sometimes using Yi’s own war diary and memorials to the throne), the book tries to compare his achievements with events which might be familiar to foreign readers — Nelson at Trafalgar; […]

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Stephen Turnbull: Samurai Invasion – Japan’s Korean War 1592-98

by Philip Gowman 17 April 2006
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Shows how factionalism in the Korean court, complacency and incompetence led to the easy conquest of Korea by Japan in 1592. Well illustrated, with maps and photographs, this book plots the course of the 6-year occupation of Korea at the end of the 16th century, and the brutal modes of warfare (Korea’s misfortune was to […]

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