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Korean Liberation Day Yi Sun Shin Statue in Yeosu South Korea Travel Guide

Korean Liberation Day and Yi Sun Shin

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August 15 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 represents this day in many ways. There’s a statue of him in Yeosu for all to see.

Korean Liberation Day and Yi Sun Shin

Living in Yeosu 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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

This Yeosu travel guide is part of our series on South Korea Travel and East Asia Travel. It was originally created on August 15, 2014. It has been maintained and updated (as of December 28, 2018) to reflect current viewpoints and travel trends.

19 thoughts on “Korean Liberation Day and Yi Sun Shin

  1. Matt Inman says:

    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!

  2. Nailah Rivers says:

    So I had no idea about these notable figures in Korean history. Thanks for the history lesson! And your pictures are phenomenal!

  3. Evan and Rachel says:

    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.

  4. Nathan Anderson says:

    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.

  5. Judith says:

    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.

  6. Tim says:

    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.

  7. Jacqueline Gum says:

    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:)

  8. valerieremymilora says:

    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.

  9. Kumar Gauraw says:

    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.


  10. Welli says:

    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.

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