Myeong-ryang (The Admiral:  Roaring Currents) (2014)





Director:     Han-min Kim.

Starring:     Min-sik Choi (Admiral Yi Sun-Shin), Seung-ryong Ryu (General Kurushima Michifusa), Jin-woong Jo (General Wakizaka Yasuharu), Myung-gon Kim (Navy Commander Todo Takadora), Ku Jin (Im Jun-yeong), Jung-hyun Lee (Lim Jung, war widow), Ryhei Ohtani (Junsa), Min-woo No (Haru), Tae-hoon Kim (Kim Joong-geol), Bo-gum Park (Soo-bong), Seung-joon Lee (Captain Ahn Wi), Duk-moon Choi (Song Yeo-jong).

a Korean admiral with 12 ships fights off a Japanese fleet with 330 ships, 1597



Spoiler Warning:


1597, Second Japanese Invasion.  Accused by a Japanese double agent, Admiral Yi Sun-shin is relieved of command and tortured.  In July, Joseon Dynasty's navy is decimated in Chilcheollyang.  Japan's army advances mercilessly, capturing two crucial regions in August, and setting its sights on the capital.  King Seonjo quickly pardons and reinstates Yi, who immediately rallies his remaining warships and troops.  He obtains 12 ships that escaped the battle of Chilcheollyang, and encamps on the Southern Sea.  Just 20 km away in Haenam, Japan's navy sets up a base, preparing to attack with over 300 ships. 

The admiral is holding a meeting with his staff, but he is remaining very quiet.  A bold staff member wants to know how the admiral will handle the Japanese navy when it has so many ships. The admiral remains silent.  The staff member becomes emboldened and says that he thinks it is futile for the Korean navy to oppose the mighty Japanese navy.  The admiral gives out with a big sigh and then says this meeting is adjourned.  The staff member becomes furious, but another staff members tells everyone to leave as ordered. 

At the Japanese base, there is talk that they must capture Korean King Seonjo and end the war.  A staff member agrees and says that they must not allow General Konishi to dethrone Joseon first.  The commander says the problem is that Chancellor Hideyoshi wants them to wait for his man, Kurushima.  The chancellor says his man can overpower Admiral Yi Sun-shin. 

The admiral gets a message from the king:  "It is futile to battle such a formidable foe. I command you to disband the navy and join Gwon Yul's army."  The Admiral coughs up a lot of blood.

The Japanese are committing many atrocities against the Korean people.  If any Korean resists, the Japanese cut off their noses.  They use Korean children for target practice.  Furthermore, the Japanese are on the verge of deploying their troops.  The Korean Admiral says they must do something to stop the Japanese.  Captain Bae tried to oppose the Japanese and for this he is going to be killed.  The captain prepares to fight an opponent, but someone in a field shoots the captain dead.

Kurushima and his forces pass by the Japanese forces committing atrocities.

The situation soon worsens.  The Korean forces in the south are decimated and the Japanese are on the move in the north. 

A messenger comes before the General, who asks the messenger:  "Is Yi disobeying the royal order again?"  The messenger says that the Admiral is doing what he considers the most logical.  He then asks the General:  "How can 12 measly ships reinforce the army?"   He asks for men and supplies, but the General has no intention of helping the Admiral.  He says Yi must obey orders.  The General gets so frustrated with the messenger that he has his men lockup the fellow. 

The pirate captain Kurushima comes to see the Japanese king.  He is kept waiting and this annoys him.  When he does get to talk he explains that he can finish off Yi and his forces.  The whole operation will only take a day and a half.

Yi's son wants his father to come home and avoid fighting the Japanese.  Yi cannot and will not be disloyal to his king. 

A boat load of severed heads is sent to the Korean ship yards.  The people are stunned by the barbarity of the act.  Captain Bae's head hangs from the main mast. 

June 7th, Kurushima Michifusa, 25 years.  Kurushima is confronted by a representative of the Japanese army with the question:  "Did you behead the prisoners and send them back?"  Kurushima says yes, after cutting off their noses and ears.  The representative asks:  "Why provoke the enemy with this senseless act?"  Kurushima did it to make sure that the Koreans will come out and fight.  He then insults the representative by saying the man is afraid of Korea's Admiral Yi.  This leads to a fight that Kurushima stops by subduing the representative and telling him:  "Don't draw your sword so recklessly. Your head may be the first to fall."

Kurushima speaks with an assassin named Haru.  He says that the Chancellor is in bad health and this may be his last year of life. That's why the Chancellor is rushing the pace of the war.  Kurushima adds that the Koreans will fall to himself.  To assure his victory, Haru will kill Admiral Yi.  It will also give Kurushima vengeance on Yi for killing his brother. 

Yi personally beheads a deserter and reminds his men that discipline will reign supreme. 

Yi goes down to the sea to check out an infamous whirlpool.  The guide comments:  "They say it's so treacherous, nothing can escape."  The Admiral wants to make use of the whirlpool against the Japanese.  He will use his big turtle ship to break up the Japanese navy and scatter the enemy ships around.  

Yi sees the ghosts of three of his former colleagues who ask Yi to give them revenge on the enemy.  Yi is suddenly attacked by assassins.  His son shouts to warn the Admiral, who whirls around and receives a knife in his left shoulder.  The Admiral and the son have to fight hard to survive the attack.  The Admiral sees that his turtle ship is on fire.  Together the Admiral defeat the assassins.  The Admiral is overwhelmed by the misfortune of the loss of their burning turtle ship. 

Messengers inform the Japanese commander Todo of the successful burning of the turtle ship.  They also say that there are now no more turtle ships available to Admiral Yi.

Yi watches from a cliff the whirling of the whirlpool.  A message arrives for the Japanese from Junsa that says:  "We'll reach Myeongnyang tomorrow morning.  We deploy with the tide, and the fleet is over 330 ships.  Captain of the vanguard is, unfortunately, someone new.  His name is Kurushima, known as the Pirate King, and versed in similar conditions. Fortunately, backing him up is General Wakizaka, whom you defeated in Hansan."  Yi tells his son that they will go to Usuyeong.  They cannot fight with the strait behind them.

The Japanese prepare for battle.  A message from General Konishi arrives for Commander Todo. He believes that they will reach the Korean king before Kurushima will. 

The officers working for the Admiral are very worried  about attacking the Japanese navy with no turtle ships.  A dissident says he will go talk to the Admiral.  If Yi won't listen to reason, the dissident will offer up his own life.  He tells Admiral Yi that this upcoming battle is futile.  He is backed by the other officers.  Yi tells the officers to get all the men in formation.  Now the Admiral orders that their housing must be burned to the ground.  The men start panicking and running around.  Yi tells them:  "It's shameful that you still only consider your own lives."  He emphasizes that this is where they will stand and fight. 

Admiral Yi talks to the son of Captain Bae Hong-suk.  The lad brought Junsa's message instead of their own scout bringing it.  The boy asks if he could be on the ship of the Admiral in order to fight for the Admiral.  Yi says yes. 

The Admiral deploys his fleet of a dozen vessels.  Then he orders the ships to go into battle formation.  The cannons are readied to be fired. 

When the men see the Japanese fleet coming at them, the Koreans are stunned by its size.

Admiral Yi's ship is way out front of his fleet.  He orders his men to drop anchor and prepare for battle.  He then orders the cannons to shoot toward the Japanese vanguard ship.  The currents start getting very strong and the Japanese ships are running into each other.  The Korean cannon fire does great damage to the forward ships. 

Kurushima decides to send forward vanguard 2. 

Admiral Yi learns that the strong currents are lowering the accuracy of their own shots.  Yi orders to cut the anchor loose and ride the current towards Blood Isle.  When rifle fire from the Japanese ships proves a real problem, Yi orders his men to load the cannon with shrapnel.  The next order is for the men to prepare for close combat. 

A Japanese ship comes alongside Yi's ship.  They use grappling hooks to bring the ships even closer to each other.  The Japanese soldiers start running to jump on Yi's ship, but at this very moment Yi orders the firing of the shrapnel-filled cannons.  The shrapnel goes through hundreds of Japanese sailors.  The Korean ship goes in for close combat with another Japanese ship.  The fighting begins.  The Yi ship gets hemmed in by four Japanese ships.  One of the Korean sailors seems to go crazy and he ends up setting off a keg of gunpowder.  Many men are wounded, even the Admiral is wounded.  The Admiral was knocked down and he can't hear very well.  He finds an officer and tells him to get all the cannon to the deck below.  They will fire the cannon from the port oar opening. 

Meanwhile, Yi is killing a lot of Japanese with his sword on the top deck.

The Koreans tie about eight cannons together in the port opening.  When they are all fired at once, the Korean ships shakes loose from its being surrounded by the four Japanese ships.   It's amazing that Yi's ship has survived the large explosion. 

And now comes the whirlpool.  Kurushima points his whole navy toward Yi's ship near Blood Isle.  Yi gathers part of his fleet near his ship around Blood Isle.   

Kurushima sends a ship filled with gunpowder toward Admiral Yi's ship.  The Koreans bombard the enemy with fire missiles shot from their archers.  The problem is that the deck of the Japanese ship is covered with wet hay and no fires are started. 

The Koreans have a spy onboard the gunpowder ship and below the top deck he lights the fuses to the gunpowder kegs.  He then throws out gunpowder from two gunpowder kegs to show Yi's sailors that the enemy ship is carrying tons of gunpowder.  The spy then goes onto the top deck to try and steer the gunpowder ship away from Yi's ship, but the spy is run through by a Japanese saber.  From the shore, the spy's wife screams in horror.  The Japanese sailor is then hit by three arrow's from Yi's archers. 

Yi sees that there is a fight with the enemy aboard Ahn's ship.

The dying spy shouts to his wife that she must wave something and direct cannon fire onto the gunpowder ship he is on.  The wife shakes her head no, but she uses her red cape to signal oncoming disaster to those at sea and the Koreans watching from the cliffs.  Everyone on the cliffs now start waving various linens. 

The Koreans realize the danger and start firing their cannon at the oncoming gunpowder ship.  All the cannons are fired and a huge explosion occurs on the Japanese ship.  Kurushima is absolutely stunned when he sees his straw covered ship blow up.  The ship sinks into the water.

Now the vanguard ship is coming straight for Yi's ship.  Just as the ships are about to collide, they are pushed in opposite directions by the whirlpools.   The whirlpools now toss the two ships into each other.  The orders for close combat are shouted out.  The Korean oarsmen are ordered to go up on deck and help kill the Japanese soldiers. 

Kurushima decides to go onto the Korean ship to kill personally Admiral Yi.  He and all his men on deck, however, are thrown onto the deck from cannonballs fired from Yi's other ships.  Meanwhile, Kurushima's other ships are helplessly being tossed around by the whirlpools.  

The two main ships now are brought back together by the waves and Kurushima jumps onto Yi's ship.  Kurushima gets stabbed by Yi's short sword.  The Japanese commander remains upright, but now he is hit by perhaps twelve arrows. Kurushima raises his sword and now rushes at Yi, but Yi swings a mighty blow with his swod that decapitates the Japanese commander.  The headless body now slowly collapses. 

The Japanese commander Todo decides to pursue the Koreans. 

Many small boats combine to pull Yi's ship out of the whirlpool.

A Japanese ship and Yi' ship collide head on and Yi's larger ship destroys the smaller ship.  All the Korean ships are larger than Todo's ships and the constant collisions destroy much of the remaining Japanese fleet.  The Japanese ships now turn around to flea.  The Koreans did not loose any of their ships. 

The Koreans on the shore bow in honor of the Admiral's success.



Good movie celebrating a great Korean hero.  At times it was hard figuring out who was who in the film, but it's not a major impediment.  Lots of action in the film. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background: (from Wikipedia)


Yi Sun-sin was a Korean naval commander, famed for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Imjin war in the Joseon Dynasty, and is well-respected for his exemplary conduct on and off the battlefield not only by Koreans, but by Japanese admirals as well. Military historians have placed General Yi Sun-Sin on par with Admiral Horatio Nelson as arguably the greatest naval commander in history for his undefeated record against seemingly insurmountable odds despite no background in naval training. His title of Samdo Sugun Tongjesa, literally meaning "Naval Commander of the Three Provinces," was the title for the commander of the Korean navy until 1896.

April 28, 1545 -- birth of Yi Sun-sin in Hanseong (then capital, present-day Inhyeon-dong, Jung-gu District, Seoul, Korea).   He spent his adolescence in Asan. (now bordering the Seoul Metropolitan Area to the north).

Yi met and became friends with Ryu Seong-ryong (15421607), a prominent scholar who held the key official position of Dochaechalsa and was in command of the military during the Japanese invasions of Korea (15921598). During the war, Yu's support of Admiral Yi was critical to Yi's achievements.

1576  -- Yi passed the military examination.

Yi experienced battles defending the border settlements against the Jurchen marauders and quickly became known for his strategic skills and leadership.

1583 --  Yi lured the Jurchen into battle, defeated the marauders, and captured their chief, Mu Pai Nai. 

Yi was falsely accused of desertion during battle.  He was stripped of his rank, imprisoned, and tortured. After his release, Yi was allowed to fight as an enlisted soldier. After a short period of time, however, he was appointed as the commander of the Seoul Hunryeonwon (a military training center) and was later transferred to a small county to be its military magistrate.

late 1590  --  he received four military appointments in rapid succession.

March 13, 1591  --  Yi assumed his new post at Yeosu. He built up the regional navy, which was later used to confront the Japanese invasion force. He got the construction of the turtle ship ( large Korean warship that had a protective shell-like covering  -- the first armored ship in the world).

1592-1598  --  Japanese invasions of Korea.  Japanese Toyotomi Hideyoshi gave the order to invade Korea and to use it as a forward base to conquer Ming China. 

Yi began his naval operations from his headquarters at Yeosu. Despite never having commanded a naval battle in his life, he won the Battle of Okpo, Battle of Sacheon, and several others in quick succession.  Yi had twenty-three victories, the Battle of Myeongnyang and the Battle of Hansan Island are the most famous battles. 

Japanese ship-mounted cannons were inferior to the Koreans' in both range and power. 

October 1597  --  Perhaps Yi's most remarkable military achievement occurred at the Battle of Myeongnyang. Outnumbered 133 warships to 13, and forced into a last stand with only his minimal fleet standing between the Japanese Army and Seoul, he still managed to leave 31 of the 133 Japanese warships either destroyed or impaired, without losing a single ship of his own. 

It was largely due to Yi's complete control of the seas that the Japanese were eventually forced to retreat, keeping Joseon safe from another Japanese invasion until the end of the war.

December 16, 1598 --Yi died at the Battle of Noryang. With the Japanese army on the verge of being completely expelled from the Korean Peninsula, he was mortally wounded by a single bullet. His famous dying words were: "The battle is at its height...beat my war not announce my death."

Despite never having received naval training or even participating in naval combat prior to the war, and constantly being outnumbered and out-supplied, he went to his grave as one of few admirals in world history who remained undefeated after commanding as many naval battles as he did (at least 23).

Today, Admiral Yi is considered one of Korea's greatest heroes of all time. 



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