|English||Ryu Seong-ryong’s Memorial on Current Affairs|
|Chinese||“陳時務箚” 壬辰十一月。在定州。(『西厓集』 › 西厓先生文集卷之五)|
|Key Concepts||Imjin War, Japan-Korea Relations|
|Translator(s)||Participants of 2017 Summer Hanmun Workshop (Advanced Translation Group)|
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Original Script
- 3 Translation
- 3.1 Student 1 : Martin
- 3.2 Student 2 : YoungSuk
- 3.3 Student 3 : (Jinsook)
- 3.4 Student 4 : (Soyun Lee)
- 3.5 Student 5 : (Dohee jeoung)
- 3.6 Student 6 : (Irina)
- 3.7 Student 7 : (Kim Young)
- 3.8 Student 8 : (Masha)
- 3.9 Student 9 : (Jong Woo Park)
- 3.10 Student 10 : (Kanghun Ahn)
- 3.11 Student 11 : (Hu Jing)
- 3.12 Student 12 : King Kwong Wong
- 3.13 Student 13 : (Zhijun Ren)
- 3.14 Student 14 : (Write your name)
- 4 Further Readings
1. [豊原府院君臣, 伏以]今日事勢。已到十分危迫。無復着手處。惟日望唐兵。而遷延不來。已迫歲暮。夫我國爲中國致忠。亦已至矣。今此受禍。亦惟中國之故。而中國不急相救。以階天下之亂。使中國有人。謀事必不如此矣。
Student 1 : Martin
[The Great Lord of P'ungwŏn, your minister humbly considers] Todays state of affairs has already reached extreme danger and urgency. There is nothing we can do anymore. Daily we look towards the Ming Army,#1 but they retreat and do not come. The end of the year is already pressing closer. Our country has shown allegiance towards China#2 to the farthest degree. If today we are befallen by disaster; this is also due to China.#3 However China does not rush towards our rescue, letting the world come to chaos. If there are [talented] people in China dealing with the affairs it would surely not be like this.
2/1 - 昔唐時起義之人如巡，遠之類。固將聽其節制於李，郭無疑。豈義兵自爲義兵。官軍自爲官軍乎。今時患無李，郭耳。然其渙散難合之勢。不可以不爲之區處也。自生變以來。無一死難之臣。皆以奔竄爲得計。甚者聚道內精兵。
In Old Tang-times there were men that rose up righteously, men like Xun#1 and Yuan#2. Firmly the generals obeyed the control of Li#3 and Guo#4 without one doubt. How could the righteous army alone be the righteous army, and how the official military by itself be the official military? Today’s woe is that we don’t have Li and Guo, Yet with the forces dispersed and difficult to merge, we cannot but not take care of this. Since the outbreak of the war, not one minister died a martyr, all use running as a good strategy of winning, worse even they assemble the elite forces of the provinces,
1 Zhang Xun 張巡 (709-757), A Tang-Dynasty general during the An Lu Shan Rebellion. Involved in the defense of Suiyang, was eventually killed by Yan-Forces
2 Xu Yuan 許遠 (709-757) a Tang-Dynasty general, commander of Suiyang Commandery, was captured during the siege of Suiyang and was later killed.
3 Li Guangbi 李光弼 (708-764), a Tang-Dynasty general involved in the suppression of the An Lu Shan Rebellion. Served as military commander of Hedong, (modern day Shanxi) at the outbreak of the Rebellion.
4 Guo Ziyi 郭子儀 (697-781), a Tang-Dynasty general credited with the successful suppression of the An Lu Shan Rebellion.
1. lit. Tang-Soldiers, ...
2. lit. China...
- Discussion Questions:
1. As a civil official Ryu Sŏng-ryong is providing detailed knowledge of military and organizational matters, from where does his insight originate?
Student 2 : YoungSuk
Now from Sunan to Yongch'ŏn the accumulated grains of both the official and private collections amount to several tens of thousand sŏk. I am afraid that one morning suddenly the Japanese soldiers will come down and our food collection will end up in their stomach. Not to mention our own troops just sitting and eating, daily consumption of food will be enormous. Men carrying things on their backs and women on their heads, the roads are filled with lines of people carrying all the resources to be utilized for the military provision to the point that there is not even a single thread left in the province. In this situation how could it [the Chinese aid] be delayed any further?
2-2. 自衛其身。纔聞賊報。遠遠逃避。[勁兵猛士, 召集牙下, 閒坐無事之地, 扼腕歎息]. 此亦急急戒勅, 而賞罰加焉。然後人心庶可肅厲也。慶尙道爲賊兵淵藪。聞 "其處人心。頗奮厲討賊。而只年穀大無。軍糧民食。蕩然無餘。"
Such person cares for none but himself and runs far away as soon as he hears the news of enemy approaching. [Those strong soldiers and courageous scholars convened under the general command are sitting around with nothing on earth to do but to grasp their own arms and moan] This is another vice to be urgently dealt with. Not until the awards and punishments are regulated, people's mind will not possibly move to become serious and encouraged. The region of Kyŏngsang Province is swarming with enemies. I have heard that "the people of the region have quite remarkable morale with which to subjugate enemies. Deplorably however, due to the bad harvest of the year the storage for military provision and for people is so empty as hardly any grain is left."
- Discussion Questions:
1. It sounds the Chosŏn people that time are so extremely demoralized. What are the causes which led their attitude to be such a way? Or is this the author's personal expression of despair?
2. The author mentions that there is not a single soul who would die to save the country from such the dire situation. However, historical records contain a number of patriots including Confucian scholars and Buddhist monks who were willing to sacrifice their lives to save the country. So, what does the author's statement regarding this issue mean to be more precise?
Student 3 : (Jinsook)
Therefore, I wish I could explain this situation clearly to the Ming General and obtain his decisive remark so that he could direct the multiple of his high-ranking military generals to centralize the control of military; to remove any intention of delay/retreat; and to carry out a strategy to save lives from the threat of death.
If the left side of Gyeongsang- province collapses, then the right side of Gyeongsang-province cannot sustain itself. If the right side of Geongsang-province tumbles down, then Honam cannot survive. If Honam collapses, then Chungcheong-province is subsequently be invaded and there will be no single inch of intact land in the eight provinces. This year, there has been a pretty good harvest in Jeolla-do. [Your subject] wishes [your Highness] may make a decree that the crops of Homan be delivered in a sequential manner to the right side of Yeongnam for relief; and the left and right sides help each other. In addition, please appoint special officials to collect grains. There is no time to waste in handling the famine to relieve the famine and deliver [the people] from the rather urgent crisis. Only then, can the Southern area be protected.
- Discussion Questions:
What roles did Neo-Confucian scholars play in mobilizing the righteous army in Imjin war?
Student 4 : (Soyun Lee)
4-1.且臣又有所達。國事危急至此。所賴而有萬一之望者。人心也。人心若解。則益無可爲。 Also, your minister has this to say: The state of affairs is so risky and urgent as this. What can be relied on, if any, is that we can hope for the minds of people. If people's minds are divided, then there is nothing to be done further.
4-2. 四方邊報應酬之事。一刻急於一刻。昔秦時。報事之人留司馬門三日。而識者知秦之亡。臣願今日邊報。亦劃卽施行。不出一二日。日不足則繼之以夜可也。且賊剽悍輕生。善於突鬪。鐵丸槍劍。皆爲利器。 我軍不能當。而四方主兵之人。 In four directions, the front lines are reporting on the engagements and counter attacks. With every moment, it is getting more urgent than ever. During Qin Dynasty, the man who would report the situation had stayed oustside of the gate of the court for three days, and the knowledgeable people knew the Qin Dynasty would collapse. It is your minister's wish if it could be possible from today to make a strategy upon receiving the reports from the front lines and immediately implement it. If the strategy is not formulated for one day or two, and days are not enough, then extending it through the night would be proper. In general, the bandits are fierce and aggressive, lowly born, and good at surprise attacks. The lances, swords all become sharp weapons. Our military cannot match [them]. In all areas, your majesty's military soldiers...
- Discussion Questions:
How were the conditions of the war when he wrote this memorials? What effect did Ryu expect his memorials to have in practical terms? As a prime minister, what capacity did he have to handle the state affairs in the war time? What did the Ming troops do in response to the Japanese campaign in 1572? How do you think the strategy that he suggested? Do you think it is a great strategy?
Student 5 : (Dohee jeoung)
1-5 凡軍功爵賞及免賤免役等事。皆爲畫一之規。 Any these things, a meritorious service in war, to give government post for prize, to be exempt from base status, to be exempted from military service, all makes standardized rule.
有司卽日施行。 It should be started immediately.
以應古人1)賞不踰時之義。 It should respond that the ancients said “when give the prize, do not exceed the time.”
又軍民之捕賊所獲者。勿論多少。 And what the troops and the people won by catching the enemy, don’t talk about more or less.
雖金玉錦繡牛馬。卽與捕賊之人。 no matter which gold, jade, silk, cow, horse give to the person who won by catching the enemy.
官不得推。人不得奪。 don't should push away his job and rob by another person.
愚民知一身之利在於殺賊。爭起射賊。 If so ignorant people will know benefit oneself, they strive be to kill the enemy first and shooting to the enemy
則賊勢庶幾少衰矣。 Then the strength of the enemy will become to decrease and to decline
2-5 四方主兵之人 不能因勢利導。 The man who control the troops everywhere is unable to guide or channel action according to circumstances.
每聚烏合之卒。以多爲貴。 they all the time assemble disorderly mob, in order to important a large troops
約日徐趨。 On the appointed day, they go to there very slowly.
而瞭望不審。 And they not search the enemy in watchtower.
斥候不遠。 the enemy scout is not far from.
賊之間諜甚多。 the number of the enemy spy is very much.
耳目四布。我之動靜。彼皆先知。 because the enemy ears and eyes are everywhere. They all know our movements first.
故我軍每戰每敗。 Therefore, whenever our fight the enemy, we always lose
臣之愚意。 In my humble opinion,
當精抄銳軍。 we should hire seasoned troops.
混其服色。自相誌別。 as their clothes mix color so they know each other only
散布遠近。潛相約束。 let spread them from far to near, secretly control each other.
或晝或夜。出沒無定。 At the daytime or at the night, don’t set an appearing and a disappearing,
隨其所遇而輒爲攻勦。 if they meet the enemy, immediately they must attack the enemy.
又不定處所。 And do not set the their dwelling place.
1) 漢書(Han Shu) - 翟方進傳[Biography of Jeok Bang-Jin who prime minister of han dynasty(B.C.202~A,D.8)]
- Discussion Questions:
Student 6 : (Irina)
I have heard that local magistrates
sometimes catch bandits.
And every time when it happens, they have to sent them the capital.
And If the booty is not big enough
they know that after catch the bandit, people will have to pay the rest.
And they no longer will catch bandits.
Your humble minister would like to ask you as quickly as possible to descent an official decree and spread it across the country.
Let bandits fall into ignorance how many [fighters we have].
[Let them thing] that [our soldiers] are surrounding the capital in tens of lee
So if they come to the capital with plan to burn and loot
let’s disturb them, day and night not allow them to rest.
In less than ten days the [fighting] spirit of the bandits will be subdued and they will decide to don’t fight.
As like volunteer units and the army of Ganghwa province entered the field afloat.
Your humble minister things that in this way the wasting of provisions will stop and in the end of the year we will avoid to come out in a fierce battle.
Question on Ryu Seong-ryong (not related to the text)
Ryu Seong-ryong was the founder of the Ryu lineage of Hahoe village, Andong. Once the village was a center of Confucian culture and elite, and nowadays it became a symbol of the folk culture. Try to explain this transformation considering Korean policy of popularizing Korean "traditional" culture.
Student 7 : (Kim Young)
Gangwon Province links Gyeongsang and Hamgyeong Provinces. The mountains and forests there are rough and steep. Although there are not many soldiers in the province, but within the mountains and caves, those who live by hunting and make name for themselves as mountain men, are not small in number. If we rewarded them handsomely to summon them, gave good treatment to their wives and family, and dispatched them as ambush for day or night to come out and catch the bandits off-guard, then the bandits' northern route will be severed from its head to tail, and our eastern and southern forces could be connected.
This was eventually an army that hid from danger, it was not a strategy for restoration. Moreover, in Choi Won's army, the soldiers carried stacks of straw on their bodies [to feed the horses]. Their faces turned pale with fright, and for several months they suffered hunger and cold. Like zombies they looked at each other. Since Choi Won was useless and untalented, so the soldiers could not hope for him to make things work. But the court also did not take measures, causing the innocent soldiers to wear out, and yet no one took pity on them. Everywhere people have heard about this. So how could people all the more have the heart to diligently serve the king?
 Choi Won (崔遠, active 1580-1600) was a military officer of the mid-Joseon period. In 1592, he led a troop of 1,000 to fight against the Japanese invaders in Yeosan (modern day Iksan in Jeollabuk-do).
- Discussion Questions:
1. Throughout Ryu Seongryong's memorial, the question of administering the righteous / private army seems to be a matter of critical concern. What are Ryu Seongryong's suggestions for using the righteous army to the maximum effect? How are we to fully understand the rise and role of the righteous army during the Imjin War?
2. Ryu Seongryong gives different roles to people of each provinces to help with the war effort. What does his instructions tell us about the nature of this war and the role of common people in it?
3. Ryu Seongryong's memorial is deeply concerned about food supply for the troops. What does it tell us about the nature of pre-modern warfare?
Student 8 : (Masha)
Your Subject thinks that the military forces for retrieval of the capital should be separated into three lines. The troops of Yangju, Pocheon, Jeokseon, Yongpyeong, Gapyeong and other counties would belong to one Commanding General. Like what [General] Ko Ŏnbaek did they will block the eastern frontier.
Moreover, the bandits at the capital, likewise, have definitely heard that and laughed and made fun of it. Your Subject's heart was deeply hurt because of that. Before I have heard that Jeolla Inspector Kwon Yul1 likewise had already stationed troops at Asan2 for a long time. I heard that there were bandits in Suwon3, and they could not advance forward. Lately I have heard that they moved army westward. The inspector is the official-in-charge of the province. Leaving the post and departing far away is undoubtedly an ill-conceived strategy. But this is what I presented.(?) We should still follow what Your Subject has explained. First, recruit the crack troops and divide and assign them to valiant generals to exterminate the bandits at the capital. Because of strong troops' reputation, it would likewise be one of the contributions in serving the king with loyalty. But it seems like that there is no big difference with the previous measures. This is a mistake of not knowing/neglecting the situation and military affairs.
1 Kwon Yul 權慄 (1537-1599), Korean Army General and Commander-in-chief. He is known for the Battle of Haengju 幸州大捷, one of the greatest Korean victories during the Imjin war, where with army of approximately 3,000 soldiers he defeated more than 10,000 Japanese soldiers.
2 A city in South Chungcheong province, 90 km south of Seoul.
3 Gyeonggi province, 30 km south of Seoul.
- Discussion Questions:
1. How does the memorial reflect the state of Korean military preparation and organization at the time from geographical and tactical perspectives? How can this document (what particular details) be helpful in learning about the first year of Imjin war and its causes?
2. By what means does Ryu Seong-ryong obtain detailed information about each region, the people who lived there and the current situation? How did information channels work?
Student 9 : (Jong Woo Park)
The military garrisons in Kyŏdong, Kanghwa, Koyang, Kyoha, and others should also belong to one commanding general so that they can surround and guard [the capital] from four different directions. The military garrisons in the south of the Han River such as Kwangju, Kwach’ŏn, Suwŏn and others should also belong to one commanding general so that they can block [the road] from the south.
 These towns were located in the west of the capital. Currently, they belong to Kanghwa County and Koyang City.  Kwangju was located in the southeast of the capital. Kwach’ŏn and Suwŏn were located in the south of the capital.
In your minister’s view, among all the generals, only Ko Ŏnbaek (? - 1609) has the mind of serving the country. Even though he has [good] strategies in his mind, a post and responsibility that he holds are insignificant. He is in charge of the military of only one county, Yangju. He, thereupon, has not yet achieved anything. Now, among the military generals who have already held the high posts, many [only] value themselves and sought for convenience. They are not willing to undertake tasks for serving the country. [Your Majesty] should not stick to the regulations of ordinary days. [Rather, Your Majesty] should follow what people of the past said: “select a man among common soldiers and appoint him as a general.” A man like Hong Kyenam (1564∼1597) has already become a high-level official (tangsang). [Your Majesty] should temporally confer the title of the auxiliary defense officer (chobangjang) on him and have him unite military forces and make an assert on the bandits. Then, there will be nothing that cannot be done. The bandits and our people are mixed and have been residing together inside the walled city so [the enemy] almost lost sense of who us are and who others are.
 Tangsang refers to ministers of senior third rank (chŏng-sam-p’um) or above who eligible to participate in discussions with the king at the palace hall.
- Discussion Questions:
1. Scholars often attribute Chosŏn's failure of preventing/defending itself from the Japanese invasions to its long-lasting factional stripe. Is there any part in this document that reflects the influence of factionalism?
2. Some argue that nationalism (or proto-nationalism) in Korea was shaped during the Hideyoshi Invasion in its collective process of fending off Japanese. Is there any part in this document that evidences the existence of (proto-)nationalism in Korea?
Student 10 : (Kanghun Ahn)
We should merge the three teams. First, they should work on shifts, and fight tirelessly against the enemies. When the bandits are small in numbers, we should divide them, so they can lurk in ambush. When they are in large numbers, on the other hand, we should bring them together, so they can fight relentlessly. Also, have high-ranking officials be on patrol constantly [to see what is going on], and put forward timely (and pertinent) policies, so that voluntary (lit.righteous) armies and official troops are not to be separate from each other. Advance and retreat should be slow and speedy respectively, and hence not be treated equally. In so doing, their robust and stout energies can be enhanced, and thereby be integrated into the whole (military) system.
This power can be elevated. Likewise, we can design proper strategies accordingly. In this regard, the best scenario is to attack and kill [enemies] in the nighttime. To this end, inner and outer soldiers should collaborate with each other, and the villages should rise up [against Japanese soldiers] simultaneously. Indeed, there are several nests and caves (enemies' hideouts) in Hamhung, and we should subdue them. In this way, minor agendas can also be put into order. Currently, however, this is not the case. [In principle], our priority is to capture Japanese soldiers. Furthermore, we should have bandits be aware of this, always be prepared accordingly (combat readiness), and thereby integrate each of them into the official military system. Nonetheless, they are merely sitting in a circle, looking askance at each other, and further not willing to fight desperately [against the enemies]. How pathetic!
Discussion questions: In this passage, Ryu Song-ryong attempts to mobilize a group of bandits from various regions into Choson's regular military system. This represents that the Choson dynasty army was extremely weak and debilitating at the time. What was the most serious problem inherent in Choson's military system in the 16th century? Further, why was the Choson government so unprepared for the Japanese invasion as such?
Student 11 : (Hu Jing)
Thereafter, merge the Gangwon troops with the eastern troops, join the forces of the Ganghwa troops with the western troops, and unite the Chungcheong troops with the southern troops. In this way, （our troops can) look for (good) opportunity (to launch offensive attack), by luring the bandits to the front or pushing them back. (As thus) every troop unifies the mind and converges in crowds from several directions, and eventually the bandits (will be put to rout as easy as capturing) a rabbit trapped in a net.
Moreover, your minister has heard that when Song Eonsin *1 was assigned to the south [Hamgyeong] province at first, countless people gathered from far and near when they heard about the inspector’s arrival. But before long, Song Eonsin was dismissed for the conviction. As the local people lost their patron, they bawled and wailed in lamentation, and dissolved soon after ten days. Your minister is not capable to judge whether Eonsin had dealt with the affairs appropriately. However, the people in the north [Hamgyeong] province have been invaded by the bandits for a long time. [Assumedly] their forces would be united as long as the court appoints an official to the province. But now the inspector was ousted not long after the appointment, and there is no alternate to take over the responsibility. Even though there are defenders [in the frontier], their lowness of the position is not able to pacify [and organize] the people. Your minister could not help but deplore.
- 1 宋言愼 (1542∼1612) was the border inspector of Hamkyeong Province and Pyeongan Province during the Japanese invasion.
- Discussion Questions:
1. There were two military forces during the war, namely private amies (義兵) and official troops (官軍). How was the relationship between these two forces and how did they associate with each other?
2. From the perspective of geography, how should we evaluate the importance of Honam area during the Japanese invasion?
Student 12 : King Kwong Wong
And inside the capital, there must also have people who respond from within and butcher [the Japanese]. Now, I heard that the voluntary soldiers of various places, each loves their hometown, and each gathered in separate garrison. But on each day they only capture several scattered bandits.
Ŏnsin was previously in Hŭich'ŏn. He was late, hesitating for several months. Certainly, he was not without guilt. But regarding his dismissal and replacement, they should happen when he was delaying at Hŭich'ŏn, not after when he was in the province. A [good] moment is hard to come by, yet easy to lose. An opportunity is easy to slip through, yet difficult to seize. The timing between success and failure is separated apart by a day's distance. As for the handling of such matters, the court should wholeheartedly investigate and calculate, and should not miss [any] opportunity. This is also what your minister looking forward to.
- Song Ŏnsin 宋言愼 (1542-1612) was concurrently the sunch’alsa 巡察使 (Mobile Inspector) of both P'yŏng'an 平安道 and Hamgyŏng 咸鏡道 Provinces when the Imjin War broke out.
- in modern day southern part of Chagang Province 慈江道, North Korea
- P'yŏng'an Province
- Discussion Questions:
- What were the weaknesses of the Chosŏn government in dealing with this national crisis? Considering what Yu Sŏng-nyong writes in his memorial, why did the Chosŏn army fail to defend its country?
Student 13 : (Zhijun Ren)
They galloped to report their victory. But they have never confronted the bandits in large numbers.in addition, the government army and righteous/private army are distinguished from each other. The marching (of the two armies) are not coordinated. (If one side was defeated), they would not come to the other’s rescue. For this reason, the militaristic momentum is isolated and inept. Every day (the army is) dissolving and deserting. There will never be a day that the bandits could be eradicated.
Being a prominent Confucian literato, how practical are Ryu Seong-ryong’s proposed strategies to defend Korea against the Japanese? In an ultimate national crisis like the Imjin Waeran, how the conventional distinctions between 문and 무 changed in Chosŏn society? Scholars like JaHyun Kim Haboush have argued that the spontaneous resistance organized by the righteous army marked the beginning of a prototype Korean nationalism. How is Ryu Seong-ryong’s assessment of the righteous army compare to this view?
2-13 臣以無狀。曾忝大臣。使國事至此。萬死無惜。今之所陳瞽說。俱不合宜。朝廷必已施行。而臣未及聞知。但觀時事。一日危於一日。摧心切骨。日夜流涕。零碎者不及盡。陳謹撮其大槩。仰備採擇。區區之忱。伏希少加憐察。取進止(則如咸興。一本作如咸興則。) I am an insolent person, and ashamed to once hold the important post of minster. Making the national matters into this circumstance, I would not regret even if die ten thousand times. What I have blindly stated above are all inappropriate. The court must have already acted on (the matters that I proposed on), but I have not become aware of (the court’s action). Observing the current matters, the crisis is more urgent day by day. (The sorrow) punctures my heart and carves on my bone, I shed tears day and night. The trivial matters are not touched on, I prudently gathered the principal matters, prepared in case you would want select from it. I hope you would scrutinize my humble sincerity with some sympathy.
Student 14 : (Write your name)
- Discussion Questions: