Siege of Dongnae


Konishi Yukinaga


Song Sang-hyeon

The Siege of Dongnae occurred from 4/14 to 4/15 in Bunroku 1 (1592) and was waged between the Japanese and Korean armies in Dongnae on the Korean Peninsula.  This was one of the opening battles in two Japanese invasions of Korea under the Toyotomi administration known as the Bunroku-Keichō Campaign, named after the two eras in which each of the invasions occurred, namely, in 1592 of the Bunroku era and again in 1597 of the Keichō era.  The Bunroku-Keichō Campaign is also referred to as the Imjin War.


At the Siege of Busanjin, after capturing Busan and toppling surrounding fortresses, the Japanese army needed to secure a bridgehead along the coast, but in the interior areas around Busan, the stronghold of Dongnae that served as the Protectorate General stood approximately ten kilometers to the northeast of Busan.  This fortress was designed to take advantage of the mountainous topography, enabling control over the primary road to Hanseong (Seoul) to the north.  After invading Busan, the Japanese army next headed toward this location.

Course of events

Upon receiving news of the assault by the Japanese army on 4/13, Song Sang-hyeon, the prefect of Dongnae hurriedly assembled the soldiers and citizens of the walled town and ordered Jo Yeong Gyu, the magistrate of Yangsan, to summon soldiers and citizens from the surrounding area.  Yi Gak, the Left Gyeongbuk (the regional military governor of military affairs) and the commanding officer of Gyeongsangnam-do, came to the Dongnae fortress from 兵営城 (Ulsan) to the north.  After hearing of the fall of Busan, his face turned pale and he attempted to flee so Song Sang-hyeon stopped him.  Yi Gak, however, said the general was not allowed to endanger his own life.  Have the prefectural envoy defend the fort.  I will serve as the commander away from the battlefield.  At night, he absconded from the fort with a small contingent and returned ten kilometers to an encampment at Sosanyeok.

After resting one night in Busan, a majority of the First Division of the Japanese army departed from Busan around 6:00 AM the next morning on 4/14, arriving two hours later at Dongnae.  Soon thereafter, the Japanese forces approached the fortress, surrounded it with five lines, and positioned shock troops in an open area nearby.  Song Sang-hyeon took-up a position atop the tower overlooking the south entrance to command all of the forces.  In accordance with Korean tradition, he beat a giant drum to arouse the troops.

Similar to the prior battle, Konishi Yukinaga demanded surrender to allow passage to China, throwing a wooden tag that said if you are going to battle, do so immediately, if not, then immediately open the road.  On this occasion, the Korean side did not ignore the demand.  Song Sang-hyeon threw-back the wooden tag with the message that it is easy to die but difficult to open the road, thereby rejecting the demand.

The Japanese army attacked with three lines while Song Sang-hyeon directed his troops to forcefully defend the fortress for one-half day.  At daybreak on 4/15, Yukinaga himself led forces to attack Dongnae and ordered the troops to capture him alive.

The Japanese army attempted an assault from a hilly area.  After setting ladders, the Japanese troops attempted to scale the walls of the fortress.  The Korean army fought back, shooting arrows and throwing roof tiles.  At Dongnae, the defenders had already heard about the arquebuses deployed by the Japanese forces in the Siege of Busan, so, in an effort to shield themselves, the Korean troops prepared long boards, but these were not effective against the barrage fired from the arquebuses.  The Japanese soldiers tied war banners to long poles affixed to their waists, and raising one hand high, confused the aim of the Korean soldiers, enabling them to invade the fortress.

With the Japanese army pressing forward like an avalanche, numerous commanders in the Korean army were lost.  Aware of impending defeat, Song Sang-hyeon dressed in clothes worn by the nobility when attending Court and sat solemnly atop a toward at the fortress without moving.  The Japanese soldiers proceeded to surround him with the intention of capturing him alive.  After kicking him with pointed boots he resisted so the soldiers stabbed him.  In anticipation of the fall of the castle, Song Sang-hyeon wrote a parting message on his fan that read “the isolated castle in the halo of the moon cannot save the city, the duty of ruler and ruled is heavy, and the gratitude of father and son disregarded,” and, after asking a servant to deliver it to his father, passed away.  Over the next two hours, the invading forces then took over the castle.

After collapsing, the Korean army scattered.  After the fall of Dongnae, many soldiers and citizens were slaughtered again.  A retainer of the Sō clan named Yanagawa Shigenobu was an acquaintance of Song Sang-hyeon.  Saddened to discover his remains, he placed him in a coffin and buried him outside the fortress.  Konishi Yukinaga and Sō Yoshitoshi gave a letter to a prisoner, Yi Eon Seong (Governor of Ulsan County), demanding a provisional passage to China, and released him to deliver it to the Sovereign of Korea.  Instead of delivering the letter to the Sovereign, he discarded it out of fear of being reprimanded and fled on his own accord.

Other notes

The Japanese army seized the weapons, military provisions, and horses and livestock at Dongnae and, after staying for two days to rest and tend to the wounded, continued to march forward.  After receiving news that the Japanese forces had captured Busan followed by Dongnae, the Korean forces stationed in Yangsan and Miryang in Gyeongsangnam-do, Cheong-do, and Daegu gathered possessions and materials from their fortresses and fled.  Consequently, the soldiers commanded by Konishi Yukinaga were able to capture and occupy these fortresses with no resistance.

Moreover, by capturing Dongnae, the Japanese army secured its bridgehead and, furthermore, opened a route to the north.  The Japanese quickly stationed garrisons in the fortresses in Busan and Dongnae, while the harbor at Busan began to operate as the most secure location on the peninsula.  In the following month, 100,000 soldiers, along with their armaments, horses, and supplies landed in this location.

After fleeing Busan, general Bak Hong (朴泓) converged with the forces under Yi Gak at Sosanyeok. Hearing of the fall of Dongnae, he continued to flee and, on 4/17, arrived in Hanseong to inform them of the invasion by the Japanese army.  Later, Yi Gak was reproached for fleeing in the face of the enemy and executed by the Imperial Court of Korea.


Impressed by the courage of the prefect of Dongnae, the commanding officers from Japan respectfully buried him and marked his grave with a wooden memorial inscribed with the title of Loyal Subject.

The courageous fight of Song Sang-hyeon became a legend in Korea.  Jeong Bal and Yun Heung-sIn are enshrined at Chungnyolsa below a hill in Dongnae.

In this location, there is a picture of Song Sang-hyeon calmly sitting in a chair observing the approach of the Japanese army.

The wife of Song Sang-hyeon was captured and sent to Japan, but, in front of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, she wailed aloud so, having sympathy, he sent her back to Korea