Travel Destinations

Yeosu, Korean Liberation Day, and Yi Sun Shin

Yeosu, #Korean Liberation Day and Yi Sun Shin
Written by Carl Hedinger

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will. ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Korean Liberation Day and Yi Sun Shin

August 15th brings up memories because it’s Korean Liberation Day, which means freedom from Japan. New beginnings were a definite possibility then but there’s more that happened before the suffering that came under the Japanese Empire. Korea once held its own and laid claim to this tiny peninsula thanks to countless heroic defenders and strong naval traditions. Yi Sun-shin is probably the most famous of them all and for good reason.

Jinnamgwan in Yeosu, South Korea (진남관)

Living on the coast feels like a walk through a history book. Nearly everywhere holds a reminder of Japanese invasions and Korean defense against its aggressor. Yeosu shares responsibility with its heavy involvement in preparations for the Imjin Wars that took place between 1592-98.

Yi Sun-shin statue and Jinnamgwan, Yeosu Korea

From Yeosu’s Seonso shipyard that helped with repair and construction to the naval headquarters still preserved downtown, one thing is clear. Yeosu played a part and the aforementioned Yi Sun-shin – a man well-known throughout all circles in Korea – was here.

Yeosu Seon So Shipbuilding Yard in Yeocheon, South Korea (선소) 

Admiral Yi’s statue stands in the center of a huge roundabout and looks out towards Yeosu’s harbor and the seaway ahead. Similar and larger pieces are found in Seoul and Busan but this one is more fitting. It’s here where he got to work building up and strengthening the Korean fleet and subsequently, resurrecting the Turtle Ship (Geobukseon). Both would prove decisive against Japanese forces in the upcoming struggles.

Yi Sun-shin's statue in Downtown Yeosu, South Korea

Nowadays, a park named for Admiral Yi makes for a nice walk along the shoreline. There’s a Turtle Ship-themed ferry that does city tours throughout the day but nighttime is best when it lights up. It’s easy to think, sometimes, that Korea is moving away from its traditions but seeing Yi’s statue or his face and others on the nation’s coins and bills might speak otherwise.

Turtle Ship with Yi in the distance. Yeosu, South Korea

A movie chronicling one of Yi’s most famous victories tore up the box office and made Korea the only country to NOT feature Guardians of the Galaxy at number one when it opened. Thank you, Admiral Yi. Koreans are well aware of their traditions. They are just trying to escape the shadows of a time where their existence hinged upon the efforts of such bold and brave people. Korea is moving on but always looking back, as it tries to escape the dark shadows still hanging around.

I’ve written a lot more about Korea and would love for you to read those stories on that wonderful country. 
Yeosu, Korean Liberation Day, and Yi Sun-shin

About the author

Carl Hedinger

I’m a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family’s travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

19 Comments

  • Korea really has an incredible history. So many important figures who helped make it what it is today. Cheers for teaching me more about the legendary Admiral YI!

  • Loved the tidbit about the box office, I had no idea! That’s really interesting and telling, as you were implying. Is the movie still in theaters? Maybe I’ll go see it then!
    All the pics were taken in Yeosu? I need to visit, looks beautiful.

  • My students were super impressed that I knew who Yi Sun Shin was when he come up in conversation today; thanks for the history lesson! Great post 🙂

    Loved the note you ended on, about Korea seeking to move forward while still looking back.

  • That statue is breathtaking. There’s something interesting in his dress and the old ship contrasted against all the modern buildings behind it in the photo.

  • i agree with everyone else here, spectacular photos! korea has a rich history and you’ve captured it beautifully.

  • Having never been to Korea, except the airport, I am really enjoying this weekly guided tour through the many facets that make the country great. Like Ken, if the movie about the Yeosu tops Guardians of the Empire I am all for it.

  • Amazing photos and an very intriguing story. I’ve never been to Korea, but thanks to your posts like this one about Yeosu, I feel like I am making my way through the country:)

  • What a beautiful way to celebrate this special place. I’ve never been to Korea but have several friends who are from there and go back for regular visits. I’d love to visit. Your photos are gorgeous.

  • Hi Duke,

    Coming from India, 15th August holds a very special day for all of India too and I could relate to your post right off the bat! India got its independence from British colonial rule on 15th August 1947 and it sounds like India has this in common with Korea 🙂

    Thank you for sharing a bit of Korean traditional ways.

    Regards,
    Kumar

  • Duke Stu thanks for your educational posts. I believe Korea is a very traditional place and will not move away from that anytime soon. My perception is that these are a people who are very proud of their history and tradition.

  • Korea is a beautiful place, and I really enjoyed viewing the many pictures you posted, Carl.