International Reputation of Yi Sun-sin



■ It is always difficult for Englishmen to admit that Nelson ever had an equal in his profession, but if any man is entitled to be so regarded, it should be this great naval commander of Asiatic race who never knew defeat and died in the presence of the enemy; of whose movements a track-chart might be compiled from the wrecks of hundreds of Japanese ships lying with their valiant crews at the bottom of the sea, off the coasts of the Korean peninsula... and it seems, in truth, no exaggeration to assert that from first to last he never made a mistake, for his work was so complete under each variety of circumstances as to defy criticism... His whole career might be summarized by saying that, although he had no lessons from past history to serve as a guide, he waged war on the sea as it should be waged if it is to produce definite results, and ended by making the supreme sacrifice of a defender of his country. (The Influence of the Sea on The Political History of Japan, pp. 66–67.)
- Ballard, G. A. (George Alexander), 1862-1948 The influence of the sea on the political history of Japan (1921)


■ But soon a reinforcing fleet came up from An-gol Harbur near Han-san and the Admiral found that his day's work was not yet done. The attack straightway began and soon the Japanese were in the same plight in which their comrades had been put. Many, seeing how impossible it was to make headway against this iron ship, beached their boats and fled by land; so on that same day forty-eight ships more were burned. The few that escaped during the fight sped eastward toward home. So euded, we may well believe, one of the great naval battles of the world. It may truly be called the Salamis of Korea. It signed the death-warrant of the invasion. It frustrated the great motive of the invasion, the humbling of china; and thenceforth, although the war dragged through many a long year, it was carried on solely with a view to mitigating the disappointment of Hideyoshi-a disappointment that must have been as keen as his thirst for conquest was unquenchable.
- History of Korea , Homer B.Hulbert

■ Yi Sun-sin has not only the ability to govern the whole world, but also the merits of having straightened out a country.
- Chen Lin (General of the Ming Chinese Navy)


■ Yi Sun-sin is the person who I am afraid of the most, hate the most, love the most, admire and respect the most, wish to kill the most, and want to have tea together the most.
- Wakizaka Yasuharu (General of the Japanese Army, who took part in the Imjin War)


■ Throughout history, there have been several generals who revealed outstanding tactics. For naval generals, we cannot go without Korea’s Yi Sun-sin in the East and Britain’s Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) in the West. Unfortunately, Yi was unknown in the West because he was born in Korea, yet the literature of the Seven-Year War proved that he was a truly brilliant admiral. To find naval generals that are a match for Yi from the West, they should be at least better than Dutch Admiral Michiel Adriaanszoon De Ruyter (1607-1676). Someone like Lord Nelson in no way can reach the level of Yi in terms of character. Admiral Yi Sun-sin is honored as an unparalleled naval commander, who has no rival anywhere in the world in all aspects, including his great character, outstanding strategies, creative genius, and distinguished diplomatic ability. (Excerpt from ‘A Military History of the Empire’; a textbook written and used in classes by General Sato Tetsutaro)

As a naval commander, I have admired Dutch Admiral Michiel Adriaanszoon De Ruyter and Korean Admiral Yi Sun-sin all my life. If you ask me to decide priority, I would have no hesitation in recommending Yi first. Although Lord Nelson is an internationally renowned general, he is in no way a match for Yi in terms of his character and creativity … Admiral de Ruyter is comparable to Yi in aspects of character, ability and military career, but seems to rank below Yi in creativity. Admiral Yi was a great commander, who frustrated the ambition of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and proved the importance of controlling territorial waters in national defense. At the same time, he submitted himself without resentment to the humiliation of serving in war as a commoner due to false accusations by his superiors, which clearly showed his noble character. He was an exemplary general who was firm and strict in enforcing military discipline, but loved his soldiers just as his own children. He always put in his best effort in his duty and did not act depending on his mood. He often said, “If born as a man and given a chance to serve a country, he should be loyal until death. Otherwise, it will be enough to live in the fields as a farmer. If I pursue honor by flattering people in power, it will be a tremendous shame.” These words show more than enough to prove his noble character. (Excerpt from ‘the unparallel naval commander Yi Sun-sin’, Local Administration of Joseon, Vol. 6, February 1926)
- Sato Tetsutaro (Vice-admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy, also served as an instructor in the Naval War College in Japan in 1908)


■ You may compare me with Lord Nelson, but not with Yi Sun-sin. Next to him, I am only a petty officer (Quotes from General Togo Heihachiro in his victory celebration)
- Togo Heihachiro (Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy)


■ The death of Yi Sun-sin is similar to that of Horatio Nelson. He died after victory, and won after his death (from the book titled the War in Korea, written by Tokotomi Teiichiro) He [Yi Sun-sin] died after victory, and won after his death. For the seven years of Japan’s war in Korea there had been many tacticians, speakers and writers, but there was only one hero in battle to be greatly honored. While he was alive, Japanese naval generals always flinched in fear. He was truly the greatest hero during the Seven-Year War, not only of Korea, but of all three Eastern countries, including China and Japan.
- Tokotomi Teiichiro (Prominent Japanese historian, the author of History of Modern Japan)


■ Yi Sun-sin … was a man of integrity. He was an ideal soldier whose existence itself seems to be a miracle with such leadership, tactics, loyalty and bravery. He was already a renowned commander before British Admiral Horatio Nelson, and nobody is comparable to Yi in world history. The existence of Yi will never be forgotten in Korea, but also his accomplishments and tactics should be studied even in Japan because respect for him influenced generations of Japanese and led to the establishment of the Japanese Navy during the Meiji Restoration.
- Shiba Ryotaro (Popular historical novelist in Japan)


■ Japanese generals, including Konishi Yukinaga and Shimazu Yoshihiro, continued fighting without knowing of the death of Yi Sun-sin, and eventually retreated in defeat. It is not different from a past event in China where the dead Zhuge Liang routed the living Sima Yi. After the battle, Ming Chinese General Chen Lin finally got to know of Yi Sun-sin’s death, threw himself down on his ship tree times, and cried out, “there is nobody like him in all eras!” Yi Sun-sin was a patriot who laid down his life for his country. The Yi-Dynasty of Korea at the time began declining and 300 years later was annexed to Japan. However, the fair name of the great hero Yi Sun-sin will be immortalized in history.
- Aoyanigi (Historian, the author of the Great Compendium of the Yi-Dynasty)


■ It is true that Japanese Admiral Togo Heihachiro had a record of distinguished war service, but compared to Korean Admiral Yi Sun-sin, Togo was far behind. If Yi was given as much national support, abundant weapons and battleships as Lord Nelson, Japan would have been defeated in a day. I know it would be very rude, but I have to say that Koreans hold him in high esteem, yet they know less about how truly great he was than us Japanese (from the book titled Penetrating into the shells, written by Kawada Isao)
- Kawada Isao (Japanese researcher of naval tactics in the 1920s)