The Imjin War 임진왜란. Phase I. Fall like a Thunderbolt

The Sudden Collapse

When the Japanese did invade, they came like a thunderbolt. The landing zone was wholly uncontested, in fact the local governor did not even realize that his province was been invaded until he saw columns of samurais streaming down his own avenues. The whole southern section of Korea was abandoned without a fight. Maddeningly, when the entire coast of southern Korea was overran, the Korean commanders ordered the scuttling of whole fleets of Korean warships in their harbor. Over 100 ships were thus destroyed by their owners without a fight!

When Korea's army did engage the Japanese army, they were tore through easily. City after city along the western Korea fell within a single week, and every army the court would throw against the invaders was crushed and utterly decimated. Thousands would die needlessly without any effect on the momentum of the Japanese while their incompetent commanders raced back in disgrace.

Siege of Busan, south eastern Korea, where all defenders were easily overpowered and slaughtered

The only noticeable resistance occurred at the hands of a shoe string naval detachment at sea, led by a yet unremarkable scholar general whose lone significance seemed to be that he was able to be unjustly demoted by corrupt ministers, then rise to the top again. But all of these "victories" were treated by many as fanciful rumors conjured by escapists.

Within two weeks, the Japanese army would have conquered 1/4 of all Korea. As the unstoppable army advanced through the countryside they confiscated all the equipment and the grain for their use. By then they were already on the horizon of Seoul. The situation looks grim enough that the Joseon court sent out riders to beseech full military intervention from the Ming empire.

Needless to say to the Ming court in 1592, who were preoccupied with the Mongols, the Jurchens (Manchu) and the Siamese- Burmese conflict, they were shocked that a neighboring ally could within two week be in such dire trouble- so dire they were on the brink of loosing their capital that laid 200 mile inland.

Regardless, the Wanli emperor called up dispatches and sent words to the Ming Northern Army to send relief to the Koreans. The time needed to mobilize enough troops and organize the supply provisions alone would take months of pre-preparation (which Hideoyoshi had been meticulously preparing all along.) But before the emperor was able to issue further instructions, within that same week since the rider's arrival (roughly a week of riding since Seoul was endangered) another rider arrived informing that not only was Seoul abandoned, but the King of Korea was in full retreat with his court. Half of Korea had been taken, and the Japanese were hot on their heels (again, take into account that since the sending of the letter, its delivery on horse back, situation must have developed in even more radical manners) In less than a month the situation in Korea has changed from a series of disasters to an existential crisis.

Faced with the equally bad choices of either 1.) to wait for the army to be fully assembled, provisioned, stocked, and supplied~ and let Korea fall or 2.) rush blindly into an un-scouted front, unprovisioned and ignorant in the hope that the small vanguard could stymie the Japanese in the field long enough for proper relief could be gathered, the Wanli emperor opted for the latter in the hope that the vanguard was enough to patch the problem.

The governor of Liaoning (NE China) along the Korean boarder was hesitant to send an army to cross into Korea, but when he received pleas personally sent by Seonjo and similar instruction from the central court, he organized a column to investigate.

The decision ended in disaster, the 5000 strong column that was sent was instructed to march straight into the hotzone and had no more than a week's rations. By the time they had ridden into Pyongyang, the city had been taken by the Japanese, 3/4th of Korea has been taken. When they arrived near the walls the city opened fire against them. Shi Ru, their general was killed in the firefight, and they were forced to regroup.

Because of the recent harsh treatments enforced by the Japanese, there were scant locals who were willing to cooperate and almost none they found gave any rations to the troops. Frustrated, the expedition sought for a local staging point where they can properly ration supplies and map out the area to project their offense. And that's precisely when they were trapped between the mountain passes by the Japanese army.

A note in regards to these men~ they were entirely composed of cavalry troops of the Northern Army: an army that was designed specifically for anti cavalry warfare against the Mongols and the Jurchens (Manchus) and when blocked between narrow passes could neither outmaneuver their foes using superior mobility, nor surprise their foes with a swift escape.

Against strong infantry cores whose fighting strength were maximized in these defensive passes, where attacks could only come from predictable directions they were hopelessly trapped. Worse yet, with almost no more rations they would not have the luxury of sitting and waiting. In the assault that followed nearly the whole column was wiped out, leaving only several stragglers to make it back to the borders. Blaming the locals for having betrayed them and fired upon them in Pyongyang, they gathered all the rations they can and promptly raced back across the Yalu river.

Finally, the Ming court realized the scope of the Korean situation. To properly prosecute the war, the emperor would order in the Southern Army from China's east coast as the primary fighting force in Korea. The Southern Army, unlike their Northern counterparts was designed exclusively for fighting against Vietnamese soldiers and Japanese pirates. And like the Japanese~ they also excelled in infantry based fighting with combined armed tactics and musketry. They would be the ideal fighting force in the battles ahead.

Music: 상사몽 - 한지혜

But before they could even be assembled, perhaps the worst news arrived from Korea. Since the war's start nearly two months ago on May 23rd, nearly all of Korea had been lost, King Seonjo was on his last straws with no army and no supplies, only miles away from the Ming boarders. Almost the entire peninsula is now at the hands of the Japanese. Only a miracle could save Korea.

A miracle did.

(Find out, in a flashback, how within the span of a single month, how a little know, untried captain with merely 50 ships was able to utterly halt Hideyoshi's remarkable momentum, find out the differences between Korea and Japan's naval doctrines, and find out how even when completely surrounded in odds nearly 4 to 1, the Korean captain was able to create his own Cannae in the moonlit seas of Hansando. Check out: The Admiral.)