18 min

1592 to 1593

Imjin War: First invasion

by Something Something

The Japanese invasions of Korea of 1592–1598 or Imjin War involved two separate yet linked invasions: an initial invasion in 1592 (Imjin Disturbance), a brief truce in 1596, and a second invasion in 1597 (Chongyu War). The conflict ended in 1598 with the withdrawal of the Japanese forces from the Korean Peninsula after a military stalemate in Korea's southern coastal provinces. It ultimately resulted in Joseon Korean and Ming Chinese victory and the expulsion of Japan from the peninsula.

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Japanese fleet construction

1586 Jan 1 -

Fukuoka, Japan

The construction of as many as 2,000 ships may have begun as early as 1586. To estimate the strength of the Korean military, Hideyoshi sent an assault force of 26 ships to the southern coast of Korea in 1587. On the diplomatic front, Hideyoshi began to establish friendly relations with China long before he had completed the unification of Japan. He also helped to police the trade routes against the wokou.

Possible reasons as to why Toyotomi's invaded Korea/ China:

  • Hideyoshi's need for military supremacy as a justification for his rule
  • to fulfill the dreams of his late lord, Oda Nobunaga
  • to mitigate the possible threat of civil disorder or rebellion posed by the large number of now-idle samurai and soldiers in unified Japan.
  • Turnbull also suggests personal ambition and megalomania of Hideyoshi as reasons for the invasion.

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from the movie "The Admiral: Roaring Currents"


Invasion begins

1592 May 23 -

Busan, South Korea

The Japanese invasion force consisting of 400 transports bearing 18,700 men under the command of Konishi Yukinaga departed from Tsushima Island on May 23 and arrived at Busan harbor without any incident. The Joseon fleet of 150 ships did nothing and sat idle at port. A single vessel bearing the daimyō of Tsushima, Sō Yoshitoshi (who had been a member of the Japanese mission to Korea in 1589), detached from the Japanese fleet with a letter to the commander of Busan, Yeong Bal, demanding that the Korean forces stand down to allow the Japanese armies to proceed on towards China. The letter went unanswered, and the Japanese commenced landing operations from 0400 the following morning.


Battle of Dadaejin

1592 May 24 -

Dadaejin Fort

While Sō Yoshitoshi attacked Busan, Konishi led a smaller force against the fort of Dadaejin, located a few kilometers to the southwest of Busan at the mouth of the Nantong River. Konishi Yukinaga's first attack was repelled by Yun Heungsin. The second attack came at night when Japanese forces filled the moat with rocks and lumber under cover of gunfire before scaling the walls using bamboo ladders. The entire garrison was massacred.

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Siege of Busanjin

1592 May 24 -

Busan Castle

The Japanese tried to take the south gate of Busan Castle first but took heavy casualties and were forced to switch to the north gate. The Japanese took high ground positions on the mountain behind Busan and shot at Korean defenders within the city with their arquebuss until they created a breach in their northern defenses. The Japanese overwhelmed the Korean defenses by scaling the walls under cover of the arquebuses. This new technology destroyed the Koreans on the walls. Again and again the Japanese would win battles with arquebuses (Korea would not begin to train with these firearms until the Korean General Kim Si-min forged them at a Korean armory). General Jeong Bal was shot and killed. Morale fell amongst the Korean soldiers and the fort was overrun at around 9:00 in the morning—nearly all of Busan's fighting force was killed. The Japanese massacred the remaining garrison and non-combatants. Not even animals were spared. Yoshitoshi ordered his soldiers to loot and burn valuable items. The Japanese army now occupied Busan. For the next several years Busan would be a supply depot for the Japanese. The Japanese continued to supply troops and food across the sea to Busan until Korean Admiral Yi Sun-sin attacked Busan with his navy.

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The siege of Dongnae | ©unknown


Siege of Dongnae

1592 May 25 -

Dongnae-gu, Busan, South Kor

On the morning of May 25, 1592, the First Division arrived at Dongnae eupseong. Konishi sent a message to Song Sanghyǒn, the commander of the Dongnae fortress, explaining to him that his objective was the conquest of China and if the Koreans would just submit, their lives would be spared. Song replied "It is easy for me to die, but difficult to let you pass", which led Konishi to order that no prisoners be taken to punish Song for his defiance. The resulting Siege of Dongnae lasted twelve hours, killed 3,000, and resulted in Japanese victory.The Japanese took no prisoners and killed everyone at Dongnae, civilian and military, even killing all of the cats and dogs of Dongnae.

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Battle of Sangju

1592 Jun 3 -

Sangju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, So

Konishi divided his army into two groups. The first, led by Konishi and Matsura Shigenobu took the town of Sangju without a fight. The second, consisting of 6700 men led by Sō Yoshitoshi, Ōmura Yoshiaki, and Gotō Mototsugu, headed directly to confront Yi. They approached through a forest, observed but out of range of Yi's archers. The archers failed to send warning to Yi, fearing the same fate as the man who had just been beheaded, and Yi was unaware of the Japanese approach until the vanguard emerged from the forest and shot down a scout less than a 100 meters from his position. The Japanese army then fanned out in three groups and rushed the Koreans. At 50 meters Yi's untrained forces broke and were cut down. Yi managed to escape north, discarding his armor and his horse in the process. He continued through the strategic Choryong Pass, which could have been held to good effect against the Japanese, and joined his superior, General Sin Rip at Chungju

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Battle of Chungju

1592 Jun 7 -

Chungju, Chungcheongbuk-do,

However, as with previous engagements, the superior range and firepower of the arquebus-armed ashigaru soldiers inflicted heavy casualties on the crowded Korean forces while remaining out of range of the defender's bows and spears. Sin Rip did manage one cavalry charge, but found that various vegetation on the plain impeded his horses and that the Japanese forces also employed a considerable number of pikemen, who were able to break his charge before he could penetrate the Japanese lines. Sin Rip and a number of his commanders mounted on horses managed to escape the disaster; however, most of his men were cut down by the Japanese as they attempted to retreat. Sin Rip later killed himself to atone for the defeat by drowning himself in a spring a short distance from Chungju.

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Hanseong is taken

1592 Jun 12 -

Seoul, South Korea

Konishi arrived at Hanseong first on June 10 while the Second Division was halted at the river with no boats with which to cross. The First Division found the castle undefended with its gates tightly locked, as King Seonjo and the Royal Family had fled the day before. The Japanese broke into a small floodgate, located in the castle wall, and opened the capital city's gate from within. Katō's Second Division arrived at the capital the next day (having taken the same route as the First Division), and the Third and Fourth Divisions the day after. Parts of Hanseong had already been looted and torched, including bureaus holding the slave records and weapons, and they were already abandoned by its inhabitants. The King's subjects stole the animals in the royal stables and fled before him, leaving the King to rely on farm animals. In every village, the King's party was met by inhabitants, lined up by the road, grieving that their King was abandoning them, and neglecting their duty of paying homage.

Korean Geobukseon or Turtle Ship


The Korean fleets moves

1592 Jun 13 -

Yeosu, Jeollanam-do, South K

Yi Sunsin's fleet of 39 warships depart from Yeosu.

Battle of Okpo


Battle of Okpo

1592 Jun 17 -


The Battle of Okpo was a battle which took place during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98). Yi Sun-sin and Won Gyun's fleet destroyed an anchored Japanese transport fleet. It was the first naval battle of the Imjin War and the first victory of Admiral Yi against the Japanese naval fleet of Todo Takatora. A day later, after destroying an additional 18 Japanese transports in nearby waters, Yi Sun-sin and Won Gyun parted ways and returned to their home ports after receiving news of the fall of Hanseong. The Battle of Okpo caused anxiety and nervousness among the Japanese, because afterward Yi began to deploy his navy to attack Japanese supply and carrier vessels.

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Battle of Imjin River (1592)

1592 Jul 7 -

Imjin River

The Japanese vanguard was the army under Konishi Yukinaga and Sō Yoshitoshi, followed by the army of Kato Kiyomasa and the army of Kuroda Nagamasa. The Japanese forces arrived at the Imjin River without difficulty, but found that the Koreans had finally managed to mount an effective defense, and had 10,000 soldiers amassed on the far bank under the command of Gim Myeongweon. Seeing that the Koreans would not budge after waiting for ten days, the Japanese forces conducted a false retreat to lure them into attacking. The Koreans took the bait and one inexperienced commander Sin Hal immediately ordered his men to cross the river and attack the Japanese. A portion of the Korean army thus crossed the river and rushed past the abandoned Japanese campsite into the ambush. The Japanese fired on them with muskets and chased them to the river where they were slaughtered. The Japanese crossed the river by 7 July and took Kaesong without a fight. Afterwards the three divisions split up. Konishi Yukinaga went north to Pyeongyang, Kuroda Nagamasa went west to Hwanghae, and Katō Kiyomasa headed northeast to Hamgyeong.

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Geobukseon vs Atakebune


Battle of Sacheon (1592)

1592 Jul 8 -

Sacheon, South Korea

Yi Sunsin's fleet managed to destroy 13 large Japanese ships. It was the first battle of Admiral Yi's 2nd Campaign in the Imjin War, between Japan and Korea, when the turtle ship was first used. The fierce and sudden Korean attack shocked the Japanese. But unlike their previous poor performance at the Battle of Okpo, the Japanese soldiers fought bravely and returned fire with their arquebuses in a timely manner. Unfortunately for the Japanese, they did not have a chance to board the Korean ships because of concentrated Korean cannon fire. Also, the turtle ship was impossible to board anyway due to iron spikes on its roof. Then, the Japanese began to panic when the turtle ship smashed into Japanese lines, firing in every direction.

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from the movie "The Admiral: Roaring Currents"


Battle of Dangpo

1592 Jul 10 -

Dangpo Harbour

As the Korean fleet approached the Dangpo harbor, Yi Sun-shin noticed that the flagship of this Japanese fleet was anchored among the other vessels. Realizing the golden opportunity, Admiral Yi led the assault with his own flagship (a turtleship) targeting the Japanese flagship. The sturdy construction of his turteship allowed Yi Sun-shin to easily ram through the line of Japanese ships and position his ship right alongside the anchored Japanese flagship. The light construction of the Japanese ship was no match for a full broadside assault and was left sinking in minutes. From the turtle ship, a hail of cannonballs rained down on the other ships, destroying more vessels. The Koreans circled the other ships anchored and began to sink them. Then, Korean general Kwon Joon shot an arrow into Kurushima. The Japanese commander fell dead and a Korean captain jumped onboard and cut off his head. The Japanese soldiers panicked upon seeing the beheading of their admiral and were slaughtered by the Koreans in their confusion.

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Battle of Danghangpo

1592 Jul 12 -


The Korean fleet assumed a circular formation to navigate the enclosed bay and took turns bombarding the Japanese. Realizing that this would only force the Japanese to flee inland, Yi Sunsin ordered a false retreat. Falling for the ploy, the Japanese fleet gave chase, only to be surrounded and shot to splinters. A few Japanese managed to flee to shore and take refuge in the hills. All the Japanese ships were destroyed. The Korean fleet spent the next few days searching for Japanese ships but could not find any. On 18 July the fleet was dissolved and each commander returned to their respective ports.

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Siege of Pyongyang (1592)

1592 Jul 19 -


Realizing that the Japanese attack was coming, Korean General Gim Myeongweon had his remaining men sink their cannon and arms into a pond to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Japanese, and fled north to Sunan. The Japanese crossed the river on 24 July and found the city completely deserted. Suspecting a trap, Konishi and Kuroda sent scouts to a nearby hill to confirm before entering the empty city. Within the city's warehouses, they found seven thousand tons of rice, which would be enough to feed their army for several months. The Japanese occupation of Pyeongyang would not be contested until Ming general Zhu Chengxun arrived with 6,000 men on 23 August 1592.

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The Wanli Emperor


Envoys sent to Beijing

1592 Jul 20 -

Beijing, China

Desperate Korean envoys had been finally sent to the Forbidden City in Beijing to ask the Wanli Emperor to protect his loyal vassals in Korea by sending an army to drive out the Japanese. The Chinese assured the Koreans that an army would be sent, but they were engaged in a major war in Ningxia, and the Koreans would have to wait for the arrival of their assistance.


Battle of Hansan Island

1592 Aug 12 -

Hansan Island

The Korean fleet assumed a U-shaped crane formation with large warships in the center and lighter ships on its wings. The two fleets engaged in battle and the Japanese ships were destroyed while their arrows did nothing to the Korean ships. The battle lasted throughout the day until the Koreans tired from chasing and returned to open sea. Fourteen Japanese ships that had not engaged in combat escaped, the rest were destroyed.

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Battle of Ichi

1592 Aug 14 -

Geumsan, Korea

Toyotomi Hideyoshi made an order to Kobayakawa Takakage to attack the Jeolla Province. Jeolla Province was famous for it rice, and Japan needed that rice to feed their army. Also, Admiral Yi Sun-sin's naval force was stationed in Jeolla Province. Capturing Jeolla Province would provide a land route for the Japanese army to attack Admiral Yi, who had interfered with Japanese supply lines for the past two months. So Kobayakawa, who was in Seoul at the time, advanced to attack the Korean army. The Koreans won this battle and stopped the Japanese army from advancing to Jeolla Province. The Japanese force retreated from Ichi and Jeonju. As a result, Japan failed to provide enough rice for its army, which affected its ability to fight.

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Ming Cavalry


Zhu Chengxun arrives at Uiju

1592 Aug 15 -

Uiju, Korea

Viewing the crisis in Choson, the Ming Dynasty Wanli emperor and his court were initially filled with confusion and skepticism as to how their tributary could have been overrun so quickly. The Korean Court was at first hesitant to call for help from the Ming Dynasty, and began a withdrawal to Pyongyang. The local governor at Liaodong eventually acted upon King Seonjo's request for aid following the capture of Pyongyang by sending a small force of 5,000 soldiers led by Zhu Chengxun. Zhu, a general who had fought successfully against the Mongols and the Jurchens, was over-confident, holding the Japanese in contempt.


Battle of Pyongyang

1592 Aug 23 -

Pyongyang, Korea

The combined army of Zhu Chengxun and Shi Ru arrived at Pyeongyang on 23 August 1592 in a pouring rain at night. The Japanese were caught completely off guard and the Ming army was able to take the undefended Chilsongmun ("Seven Stars Gate") in the north wall and entered the city. However the Japanese soon realized just how tiny the Ming army actually was, so they spread out, causing the enemy army to stretch out and disperse. The Japanese then took advantage of the situation and counterattacked with gunfire. Small groups of isolated Ming soldiers were picked off until the signal to retreat was sounded. The Ming army had been turned around, driven out of the city, its stragglers cut down. By the end of the day, Shi Ru was killed while Zhu Chengxun escaped back to Uiju. Some 3,000 Ming soldiers were killed. Zhu Chengxun attempted to downplay the defeat, advising King Seonjo that he had only made a "tactical retreat" due to the weather, and would return from China after raising more troops. However, upon his return to Liaodong, he wrote an official report blaming the Koreans for the defeat. Ming envoys sent to Korea found this accusation groundless.

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Battle of Cheongju

1592 Sep 6 -

Cheongju, South Korea

Jo Heon and the monk Yeonggyu gathered a force of 2,600 to attack Cheongju, which served as the administrative center of central Korea and contained a large government granary. It was previously taken on 4 June and was under the control of Hachisuka Iemasa. Battle When the Koreans attacked, some of the Japanese were still out foraging for food. The Japanese came out and fired at the Koreans, but they were surrounded and killed. The Koreans didn't know how to use the matchlock firearms, so they used them as clubs. At this point a heavy downpour started so the Koreans fell back and retreated. The next day the Koreans discovered the Japanese had evacuated from Cheongju and took the city without a fight.


The Jurchens

1592 Oct 1 -

Jurchen Fort, Manchuria

Katō Kiyomasa then decided to attack a nearby Jurchen castle across the Tumen River in Manchuria to test his troops against the "barbarians", as the Koreans called the Jurchens. Kato's army of 8,000 was joined by 3,000 Koreans, at Hamgyong, because the Jurchens periodically raided across the border. Soon the combined force sacked the castle, and camped near the border; after the Koreans left for home, the Japanese troops suffered a retaliatory assault from the Jurchens. Katō Kiyomasa retreated with his forces to avoid heavy losses. Because of this invasion, rising Jurchen leader Nurhaci offered military assistance to the Joseon and Ming in the war. However, the offer was refused by both countries, particularly Joseon, saying that it would be disgraceful to accept assistance from the "Barbarians" to the north.

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from the movie "The Admiral: Roaring Currents"


Battle of Busan

1592 Oct 5 -

Busan, South Korea

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 (長蛇陣), 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. The Japanese army and navy joined their forces and attacked the Joseon fleet from the nearby hills in desperation. 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.The Korean ships fired on the Japanese fleet and burned them using fire arrows while the Japanese fired on them from above in their forts. Even with cannons captured at Busan, the Japanese did little damage to the Korean warships. By the time the day had ended, 128 Japanese ships had been destroyed. Yi Sunsin gave orders to withdraw, ending the battle.

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Siege of Jinju (1592)

1592 Nov 13 -

Jinju Castle, South Korea

The Japanese heartily approached Jinju fortress. They expected another easy victory at Jinju but the Korean general Kim Si-min defied the Japanese and stood firm with his 3,800 men. Again, the Koreans were outnumbered. Kim Si-min had recently acquired around 170 arquebuses, equivalent to what the Japanese used. Kim Si-min had them trained and believed he could defend Jinju. After three days of fighting, Kim Si-min was hit by a bullet on the side of his head and fell, unable to command his forces. The Japanese commanders then pressed even harder on the Koreans to dishearten them, but the Koreans fought on. The Japanese soldiers were still unable to scale the walls even with heavy fire from arquebuses. The Koreans were not in a good position since Kim Si-min was wounded and the garrison was now running low on ammunition. Gwak Jae-u, one of the main leaders of the Righteous armies of Korea arrived at night with an extremely small band, not enough to relieve the Koreans at Jinju. Gwak ordered his men to grab attention by blowing on horns and making noises. About 3,000 guerrillas and irregular forces arrived at the scene. At this time, the Japanese commanders realized their danger and were forced to abandon the siege and retreated.

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Ming sends larger army

1593 Jan 1 -


The Ming Emperor mobilized and dispatched a larger force under the general Li Rusong and Imperial Superintendent Song Yingchang. According to the collection of letters left by Song Yingchang, the strength of the Ming army was around 40,000, composed mostly of garrisons from the north, including around 3,000 men with experience against Japanese pirates under Qi Jiguang. Li wanted a winter campaign as the frozen ground would allow his artillery train to move more easily than it would under the roads turned into mud by the fall rains. At Uiju, King Sonjo and the Korean court formally welcomed Li and the other Chinese generals to Korea, where strategy was discussed. On January 5, Wu Weizhong leads 5,000 men across the Yalu River. Li Rusong's army of 35,000 reaches the Yalu River a few weeks later.

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Siege of Pyongyang (1593)

1593 Feb 6 -

Pyongyang, Korea

A Ming force of 43,000 with 200+ cannons and a Joseon army of 10000 with 4200 monks siege Pyongyang held by the Japanese. In the morning of 8 January, Li Rusong's army advanced on the city, their tightly packed ranks "looking like the scales on a fish. The Japanese defense was almost too much. Although nominally successful in repelling the enemies, the Japanese were no longer capable of defending the city. All the gates had been breached, no food was left, and they had suffered horrible casualties. With this in mind Konishi led the entire garrison out into the night and snuck across the frozen Daedong River back to Hanseong. Konishi's men reached Hanseong on 17 February. Song Yingchang invited Seonjo of Joseon to return to Pyeongyang on 6 March.

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Battle of Byeokjegwan

1593 Feb 27 -


The Battle of Byeokjegwan was a military engagement fought on 27 February 1593 between the armies of the Ming dynasty led by Li Rusong and Japanese forces under Kobayakawa Takakage. It resulted in Japanese victory and Ming retreat. The battle lasted from late morning until noon. Finally Li Rusong was forced to retreat in the face of superior numbers. The Japanese burned all the grass within the vicinity of Hanseong to deprive the Ming cavalry of fodder.

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Battle of Haengju

1593 Mar 14 -

Haengju, Korea

The Japanese attack led by Konishi Yukinaga with 30,000 men. They took turns attacking the stockade due to the limited space. The Koreans retaliated with arrows, cannons, and hwacha. After three attacks, one with siege tower, and one where Ishida Mitsunari was wounded, Ukita Hideie managed to breach the outer defenses and reach the inner wall. When the Koreans had nearly run out of arrows, I Bun arrived with supply ships containing 10,000 more arrows, and they continued to fight on until dusk when the Japanese retreated. Aside from the defeat, the Japanese situation became even more tenuous after Zha Dashou led a small group of raiders to Hanseong, burning more than 6,500 tons of grain. This left the Japanese with less than a month of provisions.


The Japanese abandon Hanseong

1593 May 18 -

Seoul, South Korea

After the Battle of Byeokjegwan, the Ming army took a cautious approach and moved on Hanseong (present-day Seoul) again later in February after the successful Korean defense in the Battle of Haengju.


Siege of Jinju (1593)

1593 Jul 20 -

Jinjuseong Fortress, South K

The Japanese began on 20 July 1593. First they destroyed the edges of the dikes surrounding Jinju to drain the moat, then they advanced on the fortress with bamboo shields. The Koreans fired on them and repelled the attack. On 22 July the Japanese tried again with siege towers, but they were destroyed by cannon fire. On 24 July the Japanese were able to successfully mine a section of the outer wall under mobile shelters. On 27 July The Japanese now attacked with armored carts called "tortoise shell wagons", which allowed the Japanese to advance up to the walls, where the sappers would pull out the stones and attacked the weakened area of the wall, and with the aid of a rainstorm, were able to dislodge its foundations. The fortress was quickly taken. Like after most Japanese victories in largely populated areas, there was a massacre. The Japanese then retreated to Busan.

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Japanese fleet heads home


The Japanese withdraw from Korea

1593 Sep 1 -

Hideyoshi Toyotomi gives the order to withdraw 40,000 troops from Korea.


The Ming army depart Korea

1593 Sep 16 -

Most of the Ming army departs from Korea, leaving a garrison force of 16,000.



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  • Niderost, Eric (January 2002), "The Miracle at Myongnyang, 1597", Osprey Military Journal, 4 (1): 44–50
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  • Turnbull, Stephen (2002), Samurai Invasion: Japan's Korean War 1592–98, Cassell & Co, ISBN 978-0-304-35948-6

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