Yi Sun-Shin was born into the family of a civil official. At the age of 32 he passed the military service examination. He then followed the life of a military man. Yi Sun-Shin began his first official service as the Gwonggwan of Donggubibo the same year, but his life as a public official wasn’t smooth. He wasn’t promoted properly because of his conviction on the definite classification on public and private affairs and his clear attitude on right and wrong. He sometimes incurred the hatred of seniors and even worse; he fought in wars without an official title. It was as if he was being deprived of an official title.
One year before the Japanese invasion in 1592, he became the Jeolla Jwasusa, which was the commander of the naval forces in the left sea of Jeollanam-Do. He waspromoted from Jeongeum Hyeonsam, a second military rank, to the third court rank, because of the aggressive recommendations from Seoae Yu Seong-Ryong. He was a close friend and supporter for a long time. After his appointment, his perspectives on the war, his development of firearms and the maintenance of provisions became the foundations for saving the country from the Japanese invasion.
In 1592, After the Japanese invasion, Yi Sun-Shin achieved distinguished victories after defeating 359 Japanese battleships killing about 30,000 Japanese solders in four wars within one year.
With his prominent strategies and tactics, he achieved the world best triumphs by sinking about 700 battleships and capturing 23 battleships during the entire period of war. During the Japanese invasion three great victories were, the Hansando, the Haneju, and the Jinju.
Yi Baek
Yi Sun-Shin was the 12th descendant in Deoksu Yi family. The founder of his family was Yi Dong-Su. He was
the Sinhowi Jungrangjang, during King Gojong’s reign, in the mid Goryeo dynasty. His ancestor were not identified and the only record about the expedition during the invasion of Georan in 1218 remains in the history of The Goryeo Dynasty. When the name of The Joseon Dynasty changed in the fourth ancestor of Yi Sun-Shin, his family was distinguished as a civil service family. The Deoksu Yi family produced: 105 civil officials, 7 ministers, 5 Daejehak, 5 meritorious retainers and 2 clean handed government officials during the Joseon Dynasty. The Deoksu Yi family flourished for almost three hundred years, from King Junjong’s reign to King Yeongjo’s reign.
Yi Byeon, the seventh ancestor of Yi Sun-Shin(李邊)1) was the Daejehak of Hongmungwan Yeongjungchubusa. His great grandfather, Yi Geo, passed the Siknyeon examination and filled various government posts. These posts included: Hongmungwan Suchan, Saganwon Jeongeon, Saheonbu Jangryeong and Yijo Jwarang. He was well known as the “Tiger Jangryeong” because of his strict impeachments and disputes.
The grandfather of Yi Sun-Shin, Yi Baek-Nok, endured the adversities because of Literati Purge in 1591.2) Yi Jeong, the father of Yi Sun-Shin, spent his life as an ordinary man without an official position. The family fortune was diminishing. Yi Jeong was said to have worked as a Byeongjeolgowi, which is a lower military servant. It was considered to be an honorary or temporary posting not a regular posting.
Yi Sun-Shin’s mother was from the Chogye Byeon family. Yi Sun-Shin’s brothers were Hui-Shin, Yo-Shin, and Wu-Shin.
The Deoksu Yi family was considered as several prominent clans. These clans included, the Yi Sun-Shin, the Yi Yul-Gok(栗谷) and the Yi Sik(李植 : 1584 to 1647). The Yi Sun-Shin and the Yi Yul-Gok were divided from the fourth ancestor. Yi Sun-Shin was the 12th descendant and Yi Yul-Gok was the 13th. Their family relationship was uncle and nephew in the 19th kinship. Yi Yul-Gok and Yi Sik were divided from the great grandfather’s of Yi Yul-Gok. Yi Sik was the 15th descendant. Yi Sun-Shin was great grandfather of Yi Sik