Some Great Heroes in the History of South Korea

The history of Korea dates back to 2333 BC and until now there have been millions of great heroes in the history of South Korea. There are great examples that include kings, inventors, physicians, politicians, admirals, generals, fighters for national independence, presidents and a great deal more! Now, let’s take a journey through the history of South Korea!


세종대왕 / King Sejong the Great ( 1397-1450 / R. 1418-1450 )


Sejong the Great was the 4th king of Joseon. He was 21 years old when he ascended to the throne in 1418. He was very respected and famous for one of his huge achievements. In 1443, King Sejong created Hunminjeongeum (훈민정음), which is a document that describes an original and native script of the Korean language. He showed great Confucianism politics and started our beautiful national culture. He still remains as one of the great kings throughout history. Therefore, he is still admired and loved by Koreans today.


장영실 / Jang Yeong-Shil ( ?-? NOT RECORDED )


Jang Yeong-Shil was a Korean scientist and an astronomer during the Joseon Dynasty. He was of a low class, but he surpassed the restrictions and became the greatest inventor in the entire history of the Joseon Dynasty. Jang Yeong-Shil’s major inventions include the Celestial Globe (혼천의), the Observatory (관천대), the Hemispherical Sundial (앙부일구/오목해시계), Clepsydra (자격루/물시계), Pluviometer (측우기), Wind Streamer Pedestal (풍기대) and many more! Due to Jang’s extraordinary accomplishments, King Sejong the Great trusted Jang Yeong-Shil and highly praised him with his talent so he enhanced his government position. No one knows about the later events of his life, including the date and the reason of his death. However, he was an important person for developing these technological advancements in Korea’s history.


허준 / Heo Jun ( 1539-1615 )


Heo Jun was a court physician during the reign of King Seonjo in the Joseon Dynasty. He wrote several medical books, but his  ‘Dongui Bogam (동의보감) ‘ is definitely well known and significant as it is the defining text of traditional Korean medicine. Even today, Heo Jun and his accomplishments are widely recognized by physicians around the world.


이순신 / Yi Sun-Shin ( 1545-1598 )


Yi Sun-Shin was the Korean commander of the navy and was the Samdo Sugun Tongjesa (삼도수군통제사), which literally meant “Naval Commander of the Three Provinces” until 1596. He is also very famous for his victories during the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592 (Imjin War) again in the Joseon Dynasty. Yi Sun-Shin invented ‘The Turtle Ship ‘ also known as Geobukseon (거북선). It was a type of large ironclad warship. He first used it in Battle of Dangpo (당포해전) and won many battles against the Japanese navies. Admiral Yi’s commanded as the head of an army in the Battle of Hansan Island (한산도대첩), which was one of the most important battles of the Imjin War. Korea won the battle and destroyed at least 47 Japanese ships. Furthermore, the battle of Hansan Island is considered to be the third largest naval battle in the world’s history along with the Battle of Salamis and the Battle of Gravelines. Yi Sun-Shin died at the Battle of Noryang (노량해전) on November 19th, 1598, he was wounded by a bullet while he was fighting against the Japanese who assembled at Noryang. His last words were ” The battle is at its height … do not announce my death.”  After, he was honoured as a Duke of Loyalty and Warfare (충무공), First class Military Order of Merit during the reign of Seonjo (선무일등공신), Prime Minister (영의정) and the Prince of the Court from Deokpung (덕풍부원군). Yi Sun-Shin is very respected not only by Koreans, but by Japanese admirals as well for his exemplary conduct on and off the battlefield, and he is still widely considered as a hero among Koreans today.


김구 / Kim Gu ( 1876-1949 )


Kim Gu was a South Korean politician, educator, the sixth prime minister of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, and the leader of the Korean independence movement. He fought hard for the country’s independence from the Empire of Japan and reunification, but in June 26th, 1949, he was assassinated by Ahn Doo-Hee, who was the opposing force impeding national unification. He is the father of South Korea’s nations whom we will never forget!


유관순 / Yoo Gwan-Soon ( 1902-1920 )


Yoo Gwan-Soon was a brave female fighter for the independence of Korea. In 1919, she witnessed the beginnings of the March 1st movement and participated in the demonstration for the independence of Korea with nearly 2,000 demonstrators. They shouted, “Long live Korean Independence! (대한독립만세) ” Both of her parents were killed by the Japanese police during the demonstration and Yoo Gwan-Soon was caught as the leader of the demonstration by the Japanese police. She served a short detention, but later she was sentenced for seven years of imprisonment. Even though, during her sentence, she continued to protest for the independence of Korea, she was arduously tortured by the Japanese officers. She died on September 28th, 1920 due to the continuous torture. Her last words were “Even if my fingernails are torn out, my nose and ears are ripped apart, and my legs and arms are crushed, this physical pain does not compare to the pain of losing my nation. My only remorse is not being able to do more than dedicating my life to my country.


김대중 / Kim Dae-Jung (1925-2009)


Kim Dae-Jung was the 15th President of the Republic of Korea from 1998 to 2003. He is well known as the ‘Nelson Mendela in Asia ‘. In December 2000, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize — the first time for a Korean. He was recognized for his contribution and efforts to restore the democracy, economic stability in South Korea and to achieve improvement on the relations with North Korea.


반기문 / Ban Ki-Moon (1944   ~    )


Ban Ki-Moon is the eighth and current Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), and also the first South Korean and second Asian to become a Secretary-General. He was also a diplomat in South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the United Nations before becoming the Secretary-General. He was born June 13th, 1944 in Eumseong County, South Korea. When he was 18 years old, he won an English essay contest and earned a trip to the United States where he met President John F. Kennedy. Inspired by this visit, Ban decided to become a diplomat and now, he is the world leader who every day deals with global challenges such as economic, military and problems involving food and water, pandemics, world peace, conflict resolution, and supports underdeveloped countries, etc. He was elected as the Secretary-General of the UN in 2006 and assumed office in January 1st, 2007 and will continue to serve until his second term finishes in December 31st, 2016.


All these great Korean heroes should be respected, remembered and admired by their fellow Koreans, as well as by others around the world.

Categories: 2014

16 replies »

  1. Thank you for your post, but would you be willing to change the title from “…men…” to “…people…” or “…figures…”? After all, you include Yoo Gwan-Soon :)

  2. I lived in SK and wife is Korean … she (jokingly) suggests Psy real name Park Jae-sang famous for Gagnam Style. He became the face of Korea… nearly overnight. Ha.

  3. remove Kim Dae-Jung from the heroes. I am a Korean but I myself is ashamed of what he did.. I’m just a 3rd year in middle school but I know that he just let a lot of young soldiers die when North Korean Navy attacked the South Korean Navy.. the soldiers asked for the permission of Kim Dae-Jung but he didnt permit them.. in fact that he was watching a soccer game while the young lives were dying. Its during 2002 World Cup.. the battle is called “연평해전” Yeonpyeong Haejeon

  4. What about Gwangjong of Goreyo who famously approved the Slave Review Act in 956. The act was set up to review the origins of slaves to ensure they were legally acquired. Those that were found to be illegally acquired were then set free and sent back to their home. Or the establishment of the National Civil Service Exam in 958, which allowed government officials to be recruited based on merit and scholarly attainment rather than family or political connections, this alone had an incredible impact in Korean Confusion history. Although after his death he was seen as a tyrant because he had put Goreyo into debt, he was very smart and did a lot of good things in order to stay on the throne as long as he could until his kingdom was as perfect as he could make it. He’s probably one of my favourite kings in History.

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