Battle of Busan (1592)

The Battle of Busan of 1592 (or more accurately, the Battle of Busanpo or Battle of Busan Bay) (釜山浦 海戰) was a naval bombardment of anchored Japanese ships at Busan. Yi Sun-sin managed to destroy over 100 Japanese ships and retreated with minimal casualties.[14] It was a naval engagement that took place on 1 September 1592 during the first phase of the Japanese invasions of Korea. It was a Korean surprise attack on the fleet of Toyotomi Hideyoshi stationed at Busan, and its main objective was to recapture Busan, which would thoroughly cutoff the supply line of the Japanese army. In this battle, officer Woon(ko) and six soldiers died, and the Japanese lost over 100 ships, but the control of Busan was maintained under the Japanese forces as well as the control of the sea from Japan to Busan. The occupation of Busan by the Japanese forces was kept until November 1597, when the retreat of the Japanese forces was finished due to the death of Hideyoshi.

Battle of Busan
Part of Imjin War
DateOctober 5, 1592 (Gregorian Calendar);
September 1, 1592 (Lunar calendar)
Off coast of Busan, Korea
Joseon navy Japanese navy
Commanders and leaders
Yi Sun-sin
Won Gyun
Yi Eok-gi
Jung Woon
Gweon Jun
Song Hui-rip
Kim Wan
Yi Yeong-nam
Eo Yeong-dam
Yi Eon-ryang
Wakisaka Yasuharu
Kuki Yoshitaka
Tōdō Takatora
Kato Yoshiaki
166 vessels (74 Panokseon and 92 hyeopseon)[13] 470 vessels[14]
Casualties and losses
6 killed (including Officer Woon)[14]
25 wounded[14]
few Panokseon damaged
128 warships destroyed[14]


After commander Yi Sun Shin's fleet decisively defeated the Japanese in the Battle of Hansando on July 8, the Japanese had to change their war strategy. Their strategy was to deliver more land forces and supplies by sea to the northern part of the Korean peninsula and then they would march into Ming China. With the failure of this strategy, Japanese troops in the northern provinces of Joseon Korea had to suffer from starvation and shortages of supplies. To invade China, they needed to secure war supply routes. The alternate plan was to advance troops and supplies by roads, but this route was blocked by the Uibyeong ("Righteous Army"). Many Korean civilians and Buddhist monks formed a voluntary army and attacked Japanese troops.[15]

Formation of united Joseon fleetEdit

After the Battle of Hansan Island, in which commander Yi Sun-sin's navy won against the Japanese navy around mid-July, they remained silent for nearly a month. In mid-August Japanese Kato Yoshiaki's army, Kimura's army, and Okamoto's army retreated from Hanyang, the later capital of the Joseon dynasty, to Gyeongsang Province. Around this time, most of the Japanese troops retreated to Gimhae to secure their munitions. In addition, following the Battle of Hansan Island, the Japanese navy retreated to Busan and focused on protecting and rebuilding their positions.[13] Commander Yi sent spy ships to Busan port and found out there were about 470 warships there.[16] Commander Yi believed that the Japanese were retreating to their country, so Gyeongsang Province Governor (慶尙右水營) Kim Soo requested that Commander Yi block their sea route. Therefore, Commander Yi with Commanders Won Gyun and Yi Eok Ki united their fleets, for a total of 166 vessels. On their way to Busan, Commander Yi defeated 24 Japanese ships at Seopyeongpo (西平浦), at the Battle of Dadaejin (多大浦), and at Jeolyoungdo (絶影島). The combined Joseon fleet defeated the Japanese navy repeatedly, largely as a result of their well-trained sailors and the Joseon ships' medium- and long-range cannons.[17]

Battle of BusanpoEdit

Off the coast of Busan, the united Joseon fleet realized that the Japanese navy had readied their ships for battle and the Japanese army had stationed themselves around the shoreline. The united Joseon fleet assembled in the Jangsajin (長蛇陣),[18] or "Long Snake" formation, with many ships advancing in a line, and attacked straight into the Japanese fleet. Overwhelmed by the Joseon fleet, the Japanese navy abandoned their ships and fled to the coast where their army was stationed.[19] The Japanese army and navy joined their forces and attacked the Joseon fleet from the nearby hills in desperation.[20] The Joseon fleet shot arrows from their ships to defend and restrict their attacks, and in the meantime concentrated their cannon fire on destroying Japanese vessels.[21] The Korean ships fired on the Japanese fleet and burned them using fire arrows while the Japanese fired on them from above in their forts. Even with cannons captured at Busan, the Japanese did little damage to the Korean warships. By the time the day had ended, 128 Japanese ships had been destroyed. Yi Sunsin gave orders to withdraw, ending the battle.[14]


In terms of size, the Joseon ships were one-third that of Japanese ships. Although commander Yi destroyed over 100 ships, he did not order his soldiers to pursue the Japanese on shore, probably because he recognized that close hand-to-hand combat skills of the Joseon were significantly weaker than those of the samurai. In addition, the Joseon soldiers were exhausted from long sea travel and battle, and would have been heavily outnumbered on land. Up to that point, Commander Yi had not fought with numbers of soldiers, but rather with ships and cannons. Yi reinforced disadvantages in number of soldiers with heavy use of firearms. The Japanese also had a well-trained cavalry, which was another aspect the Joseon army lacked. Instead of the Joseon fleet, Yi lost one of his cherished officers, by the name of Woon.[22]


Yi Sun Shin originally intended to destroy all the remaining Japanese ships, however, he realized that doing so would effectively trap the Japanese soldiers on the Korean Peninsula, where they would travel inland and slaughter the natives. Therefore, Yi left a small number of Japanese ships unharmed and withdrew his navy to resupply. And just as Yi suspected, under the cover of darkness, the remaining Japanese soldiers boarded their remaining ships and retreated.[14]

After this battle, the Joseon naval activity substantially subsided. Before then, there were 9 naval battles during 3 month since May 1592, which were led by Yi, but the next naval battle took place 6 months later in February 1593. The Japanese forces succeeded to protect their position in Busan bay as well as the supply line from Japan. Since the Japanese forces realized the importance of defense lines of Busan bay to secure the supply line, they tried to bring the west area of Busan under their control, where the Joseon navy came. This attempt led to the Battle of Jinju in October 1592, in which General Kim Si-min triumphed over 20,000 Japanese troops, and Battle of Jinju in June 1593, in which Japanese forces finally captured the castle in Jinju.

Argument of Netto-uyokuEdit

Korean, Japanese, British, and American historians say that the Joseon navy won this battle and the Japanese military lost control of the seas around the Joseon. On the other hand, Netto-uyoku, with referencing the official history of the Joseon and referencing the military mails between Japanese Daimyou, it is told that the result was strategic victory of Japan, that is, the Japanese forces succeeded to protect control of the Busan bay, which also led to protected supply line between the Bay and Japan. For example, Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, which is one the official history record summarized this battle as strategic failure as follows, "李舜臣等攻釜山賊屯, 不克。 倭兵屢敗於水戰, 聚據釜山、東萊, 列艦守港。 舜臣與元均悉舟師進攻, 賊斂兵不戰, 登高放丸, 水兵不能下陸, 乃燒空船四百餘艘而退。 鹿島萬戶鄭運居前力戰, 中丸死, 舜臣痛惜之。".[23] This can be translated as follows, "Yi Sun Shin and his fleet attacked Busan where the enemy forces stationed, but failed to defeat them. Since Japanese soldiers were often defeated in sea fights, they gathered in the fortress in Busan and Dongnae, which guarded the naval ships. Yi Sun Shin and Won Gyun attacked the Busan bay on vast numbers of ships, but the Japanese soldiers did not fight, and climbed to higher position and shot an arquebus. Thus Josen marines were unable to land then after burning 400 empty ships, Yi's fleet retreated. 鹿島萬戶 Chong Woon(ko) was shot and died during the hard fighting, and Yi Sun deeply regret the lost."

However, in dozens of the sources like Joseon's official compendium(李忠武公全書) which is also primary historical source written by the bureaucrats of the Korean government, Nanjung Ilgi, military reports(which were written by on-scene commander in Busan on the spot), British history book, American history book, it was recorded as Korean navy deceively defeated Japanese navy.[24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33]

James B. Lewis who is the University Lecturer at the University of Oxford described the battle like this:

It is important in the history of Joseon's naval warfare, since it was the only sea battle, out of the ten fought during the year, in which Joseon attacked the Japanese naval base with relatively inferior fire power. In spite of the loss of Chong Woon, one of Yi's staff who was shot during the battle, Yi achieved an enormous victory in sinking over 100 ships in this one battle alone. As winter crept in, the two parties found naval operations impossible and rode at anchor for the duration of the season.[34][35]

Samuel Hawley, an American historian trained at Queen's University, earning BA and MA degrees, described the battle like this:

The Korean navy's attack on Busan had been astonishingly successful. It had destroyed fully a quarter of the Japanese fleet at a cost of just five men killed, twenty-five wounded, and no ships lost.[36]

Even, the books which were published by the Japanese Governor-General of Korea and Japanese historian during Empire of Japan era also summarized this battle as a Korean deceive victory.[37][38] Furthermore, the modern Japanese historians also said the battle as a Korean victory.[39][40][41]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ James B. Lewis, The East Asian War, 1592-1598 ; International relations, violence, and memory, Routledge Press, 126p (2014)
  2. ^ "Routledge".
  3. ^ Samuel Hawley, The Imjin War, Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch ; Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 251p (2005)
  4. ^ "the National Assembly Library of Japan".
  5. ^ Yi Sun shin(translated by 北島万次) Nanjung Ilgi (乱中日記 : 壬辰倭乱の記錄), 平凡社 Press, Tokyo (2000)
  6. ^ 李舜臣, 李忠武公全書, 金屬活字本(丁酉字),內閣, 正祖 19(1795)
  7. ^ Stephen Turnbull, Samurai Invasion: Japan's Korean War 1592 -1598, Cassell; First edition(2002)
  8. ^ "Tokyo university's Library". Archived from the original on 2015-10-01.
  9. ^ "壬辰狀草 제 4차 부산포 승첩을 아뢰는 계본 (만력 20년(1592) 9월 17일)".
  10. ^ 智将李舜臣龍と伝説 , 金永治雄 [著]. 叢文社, 2008.9
  11. ^ 李舜臣と秀吉 : 文禄・慶長の海戦 片野次雄 著. 誠文堂新光社, 1983.7
  12. ^ 李舜臣覚書 Books 藤居信雄 著. 古川書房, 1982.7
  13. ^ a b Hawley 2005, p. 246.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Hawley 2005, p. 250.
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ [3]
  18. ^ [4]
  19. ^ ko:부산포 해전
  20. ^ [5]
  21. ^ ko:부산포 해전
  22. ^ ko:부산포 해전
  23. ^ [6]
  24. ^ James B. Lewis, The East Asian War, 1592-1598 ; International relations, violence, and memory, Routledge Press, 126p (2014)
  25. ^ "Routledge".
  26. ^ Samuel Hawley, The Imjin War, Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch ; Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 251p (2005)
  27. ^ "the National Assembly Library of Japan".
  28. ^ Yi Sun shin(translated by 北島万次) Nanjung Ilgi (乱中日記 : 壬辰倭乱の記錄), 平凡社 Press, Tokyo (2000)
  29. ^ 李舜臣, 李忠武公全書, 金屬活字本(丁酉字),內閣, 正祖 19(1795)
  30. ^ 李舜臣, 李忠武公全書, 朝鮮硏究會,京城 , 大正6(1917)
  31. ^ 李舜臣, 亂中日記草 ; 壬辰狀草, 朝鮮史編修會 編, 京城, 朝鮮總督府 昭和10 (1935)
  32. ^ "Tokyo university's Library".
  33. ^ "壬辰狀草 제 4차 부산포 승첩을 아뢰는 계본 (만력 20년(1592) 9월 17일)".
  34. ^ James B. Lewis, The East Asian War, 1592-1598 ; International relations, violence, and memory, Routledge Press, 126p (2014)
  35. ^ "Routledge".
  36. ^ Samuel Hawley, The Imjin War, Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch ; Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 251p (2005)
  37. ^ 李舜臣, 李忠武公全書, 朝鮮硏究會,京城 , 大正6(1917)
  38. ^ 李舜臣, 亂中日記草 ; 壬辰狀草, 朝鮮史編修會 編, 京城, 朝鮮總督府 昭和10 (1935)
  39. ^ 智将李舜臣龍と伝説 , 金永治雄 [著]. 叢文社, 2008.9
  40. ^ 李舜臣と秀吉 : 文禄・慶長の海戦 片野次雄 著. 誠文堂新光社, 1983.7
  41. ^ 李舜臣覚書 Books 藤居信雄 著. 古川書房, 1982.7


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