Siege of Haengju
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|Siege of Haengju Fortress|
|Part of Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598)|
|Korean (Joseon) army||Japanese army under Toyotomi Hideyoshi|
|Commanders and leaders|
Kim Cheon Il
|about 3,000||10,000 ~ 30,000|
|Casualties and losses|
|Siege of Haengju|
|Revised Romanization||Haengju Daecheop|
The Siege of Haengju took place on February 12, 1593 during the 1592-1598 Japanese invasion of Korea. Approximately 3,000 Korean defenders led by general Kwon Yul successfully repelled more than 10,000 Japanese soldiers. Together with the Siege of Jinju in 1592 and the Battle of Hansan Island, it is considered the greatest Korean victory during the seven years of war.
During the second week of February 1593, a 30,000-strong Japanese army commanded by Ukita Hideie and Kato Kiyomasa was advancing toward the Haengju Fortress in order to occupy the Goyang country. The Japanese had been victorious in the previous Battle of Byeokjegwan, but their supplies were running out, due to Yi Sun-sin's role in preventing supply ships from landing on the western coasts of the Korean peninsula. Therefore, it was crucial for the Japanese forces to finish the siege quickly.
Kwon Yul's preparations
Meanwhile, Kwon Yul gathered about 2,300 men, including Jo Gyeong (조경), Seon Geoi (선거이), and Heo Uk (허욱)'s reinforcements, as well as Kim Cheon Il (김천일)'s militia and Cheo Yeong (처영)'s warrior monks, and left his base at Doksan, near Suwon. He later arrived at the Haengju, totaling 3,000 men. While called a mountain, it is more accurately termed a hill, being only 413 feet (124 metres) high above sea level. On arrival, Kwon Yul's army built field fortifications, consisting of 10-foot (3.0 m) high earthen walls reinforced by a wooden palisade. The construction took three days. Sufficient arms and supplies were stocked in the fortress, and around 40 hwachas (화차) were positioned on the fortress wall. Another important point is that the southwestern angle of the castle is positioned adjacent to the Han river, which allowed for riverine reinforcement of men, weapons, and equipment as needed. The possibility of riverine evacuation existed as well, which provided a sense of safety net for the defenders.
Ukita Hideie had been the victorious at Byeokjegwan. Confident of another victory at Haengju, he and Kato Kiyomasa marched 10,000 soldiers out of Hanseong (Seoul) hoping to quickly annihilate the Korean army of 2,300 in the fortress.
Arriving at Haengju at dawn, Ukita divided his force into three groups and surrounded the fortress. Anecdotes suggesting a tactical reliance upon sheer numbers, Ukita and Kato dispensed with ordering the Japanese to attack by advancing up the slopes of Haengju. At 6:00 a.m on 12 February 1593, the Japanese launched their attack.
As the Japanese soldiers fought to breach the earth and wooden walls of the palisade, the Koreans hurled boulders and tree trunks from their defensive positions, and fired arrows, arquebuses, mortars, and storms of explosive hwacha rocket-arrows into the massed ranks of the attackers. Although the Japanese overran the first line of defense, they could not break through the remaining defenses. A total of nine assaults were ordered against the Korean positions.
On the western spur of the mountain fortress, a sign stands that describes a moment in the battle late in the afternoon, when the Japanese forces nearly achieved penetration in the sector defended by warrior monks. This perilous situation was overcome when a contingent under Kwon Yul reinforced that spur even as it was disintegrating. Archers were running low on arrows and there was doubt whether or not another charge could be stopped. That is when a boat arrived on the south side of the river fortress carrying thousands of arrows. With the arrows being passed around, morale improved along the ramparts.
After incurring massive casualties and failing to overrun the Korean position, Kato ordered a retreat. Ukita and Kato were both wounded, as were other top Japanese commanders: Ishida Mitsunari, Maeno Nagayasu, and Kikkawa Hiroie. The Koreans inflicted more than 1000 casualties on the attackers and recovered 727 spears and swords from the retreating Japanese.
Historical anecdotes suggest an arrogance by the invading army and strong defensive preparation as contributing to the Japanese defeat. Of note were the terrain and technological advantages of this period of Korean fortifications. The mountainous terrain and intervening sea would have made provisioning of Japanese siege weapons an arduous task in contrast[clarification needed] to the vast army. After the battle, Kwon Yul credited the role of the hwachas in the Korean victory. The Korean fortifications were situated atop a steep hill, and during this period the Japanese employed a preferred traditional of dense troop deployment common to armies throughout the world and were thus ideal targets for the Korean hwachas, mortars and other large area defenses[clarification needed].
Historically, Koreans credit and view Kwon Yul as a strong tactical leader who, with those under his command, maintained high morale during the defensive siege at the Battle of Haengju.
After the war, in 1602, King Seonjo erected a monument honoring General Kwon Yul and the fighters at Haengju fortress, but this monument was destroyed during the Korean War. From the 1960s to the mid-1990s, the Korean government constructed another memorial, now at Haengju fortress which is open to tourists.
- 놀러와! pcBee 커뮤니티 - 과학향기. 행주대첩의 숨은 공로자 - 화차와 신기전
- EncyKorea - Digital Encyclopedia of Korean Culture
- Seoul Metropolitan Government - The History of Seoul Metropolitan