Battle of Busan (1592)

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Battle of Busanpo
Part of Imjin War
Date September 1, 1592
Location Off coast of Busan, Joseon (Korea)
Result Japanese Strategic victory[1]
Joseon Navy Japanese navy
Commanders and leaders
Yi Sun Shin
Won Gyun
Yi Eok Ki
Jung Woon(ko)
Gweon Jun
Song Hui Rip
Yi Mui Gong
Kim Wan
Yi Young Nam
Eo Young Dam
Yi Eon Ryang
Wakisaka Yasuharu
Kuki Yoshitaka
Tōdō Takatora
Kato Yoshiaki
166 vessels (74 Panokseon and 92 hyeopseon)  470 vessels
8,000 soldiers
Casualties and losses
Officer Woon and 6 soldiers dead
25 soldiers wounded
few Panokseon damaged
128 vessels destroyed[citation needed]

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 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; its main objective was to return Busan to Joseon, thus cutting off of the supply line of the army of Japanese forces. 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 remained until November 1597, when the death of Hideyoshi prompted the retreat of the Japanese.


After commander Yi Sun Shin's fleet decisively defeated 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.[2]

Formation of united Joseon fleet[edit]

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[who?] army, and Okamoto's army[who?] retreated from Hanyang, the later capital of Joseon dynasty, to Gyeongsang Province. Around this time, most of the Japanese troops retreated to Gimhae to secure their munitions. During that time in Busan, there were 8,000 soldiers and 430 vessels protecting the coast. Commander Yi, however, sent spy ships to Busan port and found out there were about 470 warships there.[3] 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.[4]

Battle of Busanpo[edit]

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 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.[5] The Japanese army and navy joined their forces and attacked the Joseon fleet from the nearby hills in desperation.[6] 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.[7]


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, however, the Righteous Army fought against the Japanese army on land and killed 3,800 soldiers[citation needed]. In this battle, however, Yi lost one of his cherished officers, by the name of Woon.[8]


After this battle, the Josen naval activity substantially subsided. Before then, there were 9 naval battles during the 3 months 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, from where the Josen navy came. This attempt led to the Battle of Jinju in October 1592, in which General Kim Si-min triumphed over 20,000 Japanese forces, and Battle of Jinju in June 1593, in which Japanese forces finally captured the castle in Jinju.

Differences of action's significance[edit]

In Korea, the Joseon navy won this battle and the Japanese military lost control of the seas around the Josen. In Japan, with referencing the official history of the Joseon and referencing the military mails between Japanese Daimyou, it is found that the result was strategic victory of Japan, that is, the Japanese forces succeeded in controlling the Busan bay, which also led to protected supply line between the Bay and Japan. The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, which is one the official history record summarized this battle as a strategic failure:

"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。."[9]

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 in 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."


See also[edit]