General of the red robe who descended from Heaven

You never know what might be lying around you. What looks like a normal, quiet park could actually turn out to be a war site or a burial ground. In the case of Mangu Park, almost everything in the area is a reminder of Koreans' strength and will to protect their land during the first Imjin Japanese Invasion of 1952. It lasted until 1598 (two invasions total) and it was a national crisis that had never happened before in the history of the country.

While lives were being brutally slaughtered and local establishments were being wiped out, the government’s inability to properly prepare for the Japanese assault led to the country’s resistance falling into the hands of ordinary citizens.

These citizens, the first righteous army, were led by Gwak Jae-woo from the town of Uiryeong. With a small army of 17 men from his village, they set out to battle against the Japanese. The commander, despite being 40 years old, and his army slashed their way through numerous victories including the Jeongamjin Battle, the Gigang Battle, and the Battle of Uiryeong (the first recorded victory on Korean soil).

The voluntary military force eventually grew to the thousands with multiple branches of righteous soldiers being led by other representative commanders including Ko Gyeong-myeong, Cho Heon, and Kim Cheon-il. Commander Gwak Jae-woo was never to be seen without his white horse and bright red robe, thus giving him the nickname ‘General of the red robe who descended from Heaven.’

He not only revolted against the troops once but also in 1597. When Japanese forces invaded this time, he called for volunteers yet again. This time he rounded up a righteous army from Hyeongpoong, Yeongsan, and two other small towns. These incredible accomplishments gained him recognition from the Joseon court and this park was named after the collection of calligraphy and writings he left behind called Mangudangjip (collected works of Mangudang).

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