INTRODUCTION to his country push him to struggle throughout



1.       Yi was one of an outstanding Korean Admiral during the 7 years war between the Japanese and Korea since 1592 to 1598. This war was also known as the Imjin War. He was a Naval Commander of the Three Provinces as he was in charge of navy for Provinces of Chung Cheong, Jeolla and Gyeongsan which located in the south of Korea. As Supreme Commander or called Tongjesa(Korean), Yi succeed with a humangest glory by defending from Japanese colonialism from the south part of the Korean seas which was consist of 23 battles during Imjin War.

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2.          Throughout the battles of Imjin War, the government of Korea was unable to give a full support and cause him to suffer shortages, but due to his wisdom and skillful tactic, he managed to achieve the victory successfully.  The most outstanding battle that he achieved was the battle at Myeongnyang, where he managed to defeat the Japanese by destroying 31 of 133 Japanese warships without any loses of his ship.


3.       Yi was one of the most prominent figures of the 16th century. Although he was arrested and temporarily downgraded, his patriotic nature loved to his country push him to struggle throughout any distress on objective for keeping his nation sovereignty and security of his nation in stake. Yi died during the final battle at Noryang Strait where the Korean joined force with Chinese to demolish the Japanese fleet on 16 December 1598. Yin Sun-Shin now was known as a Legendary Admiral that Korean people very proud off and had taken his personal leadership as guideline in their life. 




4.       The aim of this paper is to analyse Admiral Yi Sun-Shin leadership and his command attributes and extract relevant lessons based on the leadership principles.




5.       This research paper will only limit on Admiral Yi Sun-Shin during the Injim War. This research will cover the following:


a.               Leader background.

b.               Chosen principle to describe the leader.

c.               Positive traits.

d.               Negative traits.

e.               Conclusion.

f.                Recommendation.




6.       On March 8, 1545, the 1st year of King Injong’s reign, Yi was born into the Duksu Yi clan, a fairly poor middle-class family. Despite their fairly poor and non-aristocratic status, Yi was born into a well-educated family clan that emphasized and valued learning and philosophic thought processes. Yi’s forefathers had served in fairly high-ranking in a government position. Yi’s grandfather was a member of the reformist faction headed by statesman Jo Kwang-Jo, which was heavily repressed by the ruler at that time, King Myungjong. Because of this connection, that grandfather’s line of the Duksu Yi clan fell out of favor from the government and Yi’s father, Yi Jung, could not obtain any favorable official position within the government. Thus, his family suffered in poverty.


7.       Due to ease the living cost. Yi and his family moved down to Ahsan, his mother’s hometown which is out from the capital city. During the children time, Yi was a very active and have a very outstanding intelligence. He prone towards on military inclination and he enjoyed playing war games and always took as a commanding role. At the age of 21 in the year 1564, Yi married Miss Bang, who was the only daughter of Bang Jin, a renowned master archer who used to be a local governor. The following year, Yi began the study of traditional Korean military arts in archery, horse riding, and swordsmanship. This was a somewhat unusual interest for a son of the Korean elite, who towards more on military perspective and choose a military occupation as a future career.


8.       At the age of 28 Yi applied to take the Kwago National Military Exam, the highest military exam in the country. He failed the exam when he fell off of his horse while being tested for his ability to shoot arrows while riding on the horse. Even though he broke his leg when he fell off of his horse, Yi himself got up on one leg, gathered some willow tree branches from nearby and tied up his own broken leg. Yi took the exam once again at the age of 32 and He passed succesfully.


9.          After passing his examinations, he served in various staff and command from lower to the highest position. The 1st unit that he had been deployed was at Dongkubibo Fortress allocated at northern side of Korea. There he has been appointed as defends officer of Dongkubibo and had been ordered to defend the northern side from the barbarian tribe of Yeojin. Yi worked hard and bravely by defeating there enemy with a successful of glory. Unfortunately, instead of being praised and rewarded for his dedication and success, Yi, adversely, was demoted and punished to Baekuijongkun due to his uncompromising integrity and honesty that often put him in conflict with his direct supervising officers. This demotion was a very severe punishment as it meant that Yi had to serve with no rank in plain white clothing alongside with common soldiers. Throughout his life, Yi repeatedly suffered many discharges, objection for promotion, demoted, tortured and imprisoned. However time after time, he manage to pursuit and hasten up his carrier high as an Admiralof Korean Navy and had attempt several of war during the Imjin War since 1592 to 1598 with a splendid victory.


10.     Yi died during the final battle at Noryang Strait where the Korean join force with Chinese to attack the Japanese fleet of 500 ships that was en route to the Chosun town of Soonchon. Towards the end, after almost destroying about 200 enemy ships, Yi was shot in the chest under his left arm. Concerned about his soldiers’ morale, Yi told his son and his nephew, “Cover my body with my shields. The battle is in full swing. Do not reveal my death.” Soon after breathe those words, Yi died with his shield covered on him.




11.     Principle refer to Cambridge Dictionary is a basic idea or rule that explains or controls how something happens or works and the meaning of leadership is the quality or ability that makes a person a leader, or the position of being a leader.


12.     Path-Goal Leadership.  In determining the best leadership principle to describe Admiral Yi Sun-Shin, we had come across and tried several type of theory. Just to name a few, Be-Know-How, Kouzes and Posner and Hudson Leadership Model. After taking all the consideration and possibility, we found out that the best approach to describe and to apply on our leader is through Path-Goal Leadership that developed by Robert J. House in 1971. Path-Goal is a type of leadership theory that emphasizes on establishing a clear path to goal achievement. This leadership styles that are closely associated with four other leadership styles that are achievement-oriented leadership, directive, participative and supportive leadership.


13.     In accordance to glorify this Path-Goal Leadership, it is a significant method that Admiral Yi Sun-Shin took up 320 year prior. Upon his appointment as naval commander of the western part of Jeolla-do Province, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin anticipated that the war against Japan is inevitable and begin thoroughly prepared his naval force from the go and led by example. He set up the Korean Navy the path to glory holistically merely from nothing until to the extent of monitoring the supplying foods for his soldiers and ensuring a proper war equipment and personal gears. This kind of gesture and attention to detail behaviour boost his soldier’s morale and had clearly demonstrated his kindness and humanity.


14.     In order to achieve the goal that he already projected, he developed effective training strategies for the navy and produced powerful weapons based on his assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of enemies. Such comprehensive preparedness led him to victories in all of his naval battles. He demonstrated his loyalty to the troops by treating them with respect and fighting amongst them even when endangered. He also beliefs in the value of each human life, the right of each person to be treated with dignity and the right of each to go in pursuit of happiness.






15.     Yi Sun Shin was a leader with excellent creativity. He development of various innovative weapons including the Geobukseon battleship, outstanding naval tactics that become a part of world naval history, and effective ways to manage an army. For example is The Geobukseon. The Geobukseon as an assault battleship was designed by reforming the Panokseon battleship. It is designed with an upper deck that was shielded with a layer wooden panels to be suitable for againt Japan. Japanese force preferred hand-to-hand combat after boarding enemy ships. The Geobukseon rammed into the enemy, brook the formation of the fleet, and bombarded the enemy fleet with cannons. It fatally damaged the Japanese fleet. Japanese force were very afraid of the Geobukseon and calling it the bling ship.


16.     Yi Sun Shin also develop a new weapons. He invented the Jeongcheol Chongtong, innovative firearms that combined the strengths of both Korean and Japanese firearms of the time. He is creativity was also utilized in his management of the navy during the Imjin War.




17.     Yi Sun Shin is brilliance as a naval commander in his use of his creative naval tactic called ‘Hagikjin’ or crane-wing formation. Because of this tactic, he won battleship at Hansondo. By this time, Japanese forces were stuck in a quagmire due to the successive victories of the Korean Navy, the appearance of Korean militias (Uibyeong in Korean), and the intervention of the Chinese Army. Japan had no choice but to initiate tedious peace talks with Ming China that lasted for 45 months. The peace talks did not include Korea because of Korean opposition to peace negotiations with the invading forces of Japan.




18.     Yi Sun Shin had to procure all the means necessary for the maintenance of the navy, including provisions and funds for the production of weapons and military training. For this purpose, he engaged in creative administration initiatives, including fishing, producing and selling salt, managing land called Dunjeon, and issuing certificates that charged a fee for the passage of coastal waters around the three provinces of Gyeongsang-do, Jeolla-do and Chungcheong-do. Using his experience as a Dunjeongwan, the officer in charge of managing Dunjeon, he gathered wandering people in Dunjeon to supplement the military personnel, and effectively procured provisions for the army.




19.     Yin Sun Shin practiced justice without any compromise of his integrity throughout his life. As a military officer, he always strictly distinguished between public and private affairs, and had no hesitation in speaking plainly to superiors or those in power about injustice. Such uprightness caused him to go through several hardships during his lifetime, but despite all of those challenges, he remained faithful to his principle of justice. In practicing justice, he was stricter on himself than on others. The following excerpt is from his report to the King, asking for his own punishment after his navy lost a ship at the battle of Ungcheonpo in 1593. In fact, the cause of the ship’s capsize was his subordinate generals not following his orders, yet he took full responsibility as a commander. He in lived all his life practicing justice by strictly adhering to his principles. He always led by example before he came to judge others. This attitude served as the foundation of his great achievements in saving the nation, highlighting his greatness.




20.     Yi Sun Shin acted more bravely than anyone else in battle. The record is well known that he defeated 133 enemy ships with only 13 ships at the battle of Myeongnyang. When Korean Naval generals lost their fighting spirit and held back in going on to battle, he rebuked them and went forward to spearhead the battle. Encouraged by his brave initiative, the Korean Navy desperately fought against the Japanese at the risk of their lives, and triumphed despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered. Yi always led by example to encourage subordinates to do their best in battle.


21.     Before every battle, he prepared thoroughly and devised effective strategies by using his remarkable insight in battle conditions. He is glorious record of all victories and no defeats was possible because he always took the lead in battle with distinguished bravery, despite the danger that would await him.




22.     Yi Sun-Shin devoted his entire life to protect the country that he belonged to and loved. Regardless of his military rank, he did his best in his duty. After the breakout of the Imjin War, he protected the territorial waters of Korea as the head of the Korean Navy at the cost of his life. He faced many challenges in serving his country as a military officer. Trapped in false accusations by his superiors, he was demoted several times and served as a commoner in battle (the punishment of Baegui Jonggun) in 1587 and in 1597. Despite his outstanding accomplishments in naval battles, he even faced the threat of the death penalty as a criminal. However, these ordeals never affected his patriotism. Until his death on a ship during the battle of Noryang in November of 1598, he was firmly determined to serve his beloved homeland.

23.     His love for the country was consistent with his love for the people. Even dangerous and precarious situations, his first priority was always for the safety of the people. He sincerely cared about people suffering hardships and tried to comfort them.



24.     Obsession with Reward and Recognition. During the Joseon Dynasty, generals, admirals, and other government officials all worked to be rewarded and recognized by the king. It was a typical culture of Joseon’s bureaucracy. In that process of receiving rewards, conflicts among those people who achieved similar deeds occurred frequently. Although Yi seems to be of a noble and a moral character indifferent to rewards, he was not an exception in this struggle to be rewarded. He also worked to be recognized by the king by often resorting to methods unanticipated of him.

25.     The rewards at the time were given according to the reports that generals, admirals, and officials send to the government. Especially, for military battles, the king gave graded rewards in proportion to the number of enemy heads each commander decapitated. Consequently, although he initially agreed to file a report with joint signatures with his counterpart, he instead sent an exclusive one only for himself. It can be assumed from this incident that Yi Sun Sin was not so different from any other military officials of the time.


26.     In another incident, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin claimed that some of his men infiltrated into Japanese camp in Busan and set the military provisions, weapons, and some of enemy soldiers on fire. Nevertheless, another report that revealed it was Lee Won Ik and Chung Hee Won who should be rewarded by the feat instead. Yi later claimed the report might have been fraudulent since he only relied on the words of his subordinates who reported to Yi. Still, false report to the king was considered a heavy crime in the Joseon Dynasty.


27.        Disloyalty towards the King and the Nation. Yi’s battle history reveals an interesting fact. Out of the 23 battles he fought, 15 took place in 1592, 1 in 1593, 3 in 1594, 3 in 1597, and the last one in 1598. Vast majority of them took place in the first year of the war, and Yi Sun Sin actually did not fight many battles during the following years. This was because Yi refused to obey the king’s order to wage battles owing to unfavourable circumstances. Yi’s action by refusal to respond to crown prince’s call compounded to the King’s outrages. As Yi continuously refrained from fighting battles, King Seonjo sent his crown prince, Gwanghaegun, to deliver his order face to face. Yet, Yi impertinently refused to even meet him. This refusal was completely unacceptable according to the laws then. It is a blatant evident that Yi was disrespectful and disloyal to the king and the nation.