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Craft and Courage

          In medieval Korea, an applicant for a military position fell off his horse, breaking his leg. Through sheer willpower, the man crawled over to a nearby tree, peeled off some of its bark, and bandaged his leg. He got back on the horse, and finished the military examination. Though the examiners failed him for not meeting the time limit, he repeated the test years later, and passed. His name? Yi Sun-shin.

          Yi had always wanted to join the military, even from a young age. His father wanted him to get a court position, a wealthy job with high stature, and his friends wondered why he would want to join the military. After all, Korea had experienced 300 years of peace, with only the occasional disruption from Manchu tribes in the north. Nevertheless, Yi persisted, finally being granted a job as an officer of a fort on the border.

          There, he excelled, leading his fellow soldiers well, keeping everything in tip top shape. It was on the borders of northern Korea, defending border settlements and capturing clan leaders that Yi developed his rigorous, diligent, and incorruptible nature.

          It was these same moral qualities, however, that put him at odds with the rest of the Korean nobility, especially those in the military. The government at the time was extremely corrupt, and Yi didn't fit into their little schemes. As a result of not playing their games, he was often blamed for the mistakes of his counterparts, being made into the scapegoat.

          Once, Yi was put in charge of a fort under the jurisdiction of a corrupt official, named Yi Il. Yi could see that the fort and neighboring civilians were in danger of Manchu invasion, so he did what little he could to shore up the defenses. Most importantly, he persistently asked for aid from the crooked higher-up, asking for reinforcements, weapons, and supplies. Every request was ignored. When the Manchu horsemen finally attacked, he put up a stalwart defense, before being forced to retreat, rescuing any villagers close by that he could.

          It was a military disaster. Yi Il immediately threw all the blame for the errors of what had occurred on him. Yi was tortured for a confession, day and night, thrown in a dungeon, and given little to eat or drink. Some time afterwards, he was brought before the court, who asked him about the whole business. Undeterred by his torture, he told the whole court exactly what had happened, particularly with the ignored requests for aid. The judge was inclined to believe him due to his record for trustworthiness.

          That didn't mean Yi returned to normalcy, though. He was demoted to a common soldier, and worst of all, Yi Il got away from the mess scot-free. Fortunately, Yi had a friend in a high place - the prime minister, Ryu Seong Ryong. Ryu saw war on the horizon with Japan, and made sure that his friend quickly ascended the ranks as a naval admiral.

          Though Yi had formerly been a more land-based military officer, he did well with the naval department. He expanded and improved the size of the Korean navy. He trained his personnel, and obtained funding for ventures. Most importantly, he resurrected the Korean turtle ship, constructing a few of the well-armored vessels  before war broke out.

          When the war fired, so did the government's characteristic incompetence. Won Kyong was made the head of the entire fleet, and he basically twiddled his thumbs, allowing hundreds of Japanese ships to make landfall. The Japanese destroyed 100 Korean ships without a fight. Naval warfare was the one advantage Korea had over its opponent, and Kyong threw it away. Within a month, General Hideyoshi of Japan had taken Seoul, due to the failure of General Yi Il (remember him?).

          Admiral Yi would not let anything else happen. With the help of Ryu, he was able to force the military to let him lead the Korean navy. He scraped together 45 ships, which would become the core of his fighting team. Using guerrilla tactics, and a formation known as the "Crane's Wings", Yi would harass the Japanese invasion, and as a result Hideyoshi's forces could not move any further into the country, as Yi had completely halted their supply lines.

          Fighting at Okpo, and Busan, Yi suffered little to no casualties, while winning enormous victories. Not only was the turtle ship amazingly effective, but Admiral Yi was a gifted naval general, coming up with winning strategies every time. In one battle he made use of the Myeongyang strait to defeat his enemies. The Myeongyang strait is one of those special places the world has which doesn't follow common sense. Every couple hours, the strait's current changes, flowing in the opposite direction. Yi fought the Japanese in the strait until they wanted to retreat, but when they attempted to do so, the current switched on them, sending their ships straight into the deathly embrace of Yi's waiting turtle ships.

          The Korean government showed themselves aloof to his amazing success, as they just had to be incompetent one more time. When peace negotiations dragged out, the Japanese schemed to get rid of Yi so they could successfully conquer the country. They deceived the Korean officials into demoting the poor Admiral once again, ungratefully kicking him out of the navy.

          Won Kyong, the same idiot who's incompetence lost Korea 100 of their ships at the beginning of the war, was once again put in charge of the navy. The fleet, which Yi had painstakingly built up to 169 vessels, was put in this lunatic's hands, and he promptly lost all but 12 of them in a battle with the Japanese navy. Yi was restored to the position of Admiral, and with gritted determination won yet another battle against the Japanese, and with only 12 ships.

          This war, however, had one more battle that needed to be fought. The Ming empire's troops had finally arrived to aid their ally, and with their help, Yi was sure that the end was near. At Noryang, the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese vessels engaged in one final combat. At the height of the fighting, Yi was killed by an enemy soldier. Yi's son donned his father's armor, keeping the death a secret until the end. The war was over.

          Admiral Yi Sun-shin was an incredible person. He was rigorous in his methods, caring of his men, and utterly incorruptible to the politics of his time. Above all of his other qualities, however, he was persistent. He never gave up. Not in the face of rejection from the people he saved over and over again. Not when everything seemed impossible. He always persevered.
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