During the late years of the Ming Dynasty, chieftain Nurhaci unified the Manchurian tribe Jurchen and invaded Ming to occupy the Liaotong Peninsula. Some of the remnants of Ming and migrants led by Gen. Mao Wenlong found their way into Joseon and forcibly occupied an area off the shore of Pyongan Province. In fact, Joseon had supported Mao’s troops for its relations with Ming and to leverage them to check the Later Jin, but Mao Wenlong and his soldiers turned out to be a pain in the neck for Joseon instead of fighting the armies of the Later Jin.
After Mao Wenlong died, Kong Youde and Geng Zhongming occupied Shandong after a coup, but they had to back out, after facing the counterattack from Ming. And the two commanders decided to succumb to the Later Jin. Ming’s chase was rapid, so Kong Youde and Geng Zhongming led their troops towards the mouth of the Amnok River to land on Dandong. And out of thin air, the troops from Joseon led by Gen. Im Gyeong-eop showed up and attacked them. Unlike Mao Wenlong, Kong and Geng were great fighters. The two men managed to escape, but their troops suffered heavy damage from the harsh attack from the Joseon army.
Thanks to this episode, Im Gyeong-eop was worshiped as idol of hardliners. Some complained, calling him a sycophant. Was Joseon’s intervention at the Amnok River really unnecessary? Regardless of political faith, a soldier must fulfill his duty. Gong’s troops invaded Joseon’s territory; they had long harassed Joseon and were likely to intrude again. When Qing invaded Joseon in 1636, the Chinese dynasty highly evaluated Im Gyeong-eop and even wanted to scout him. Though Im escaped and went to Ming, his attitude and competence as military leader must have served as the primary reason.
A soldier must protect his country and his people; he or she must not hesitate to fight when facing a threat. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean soldiers must choose to fight at all times; the very existence of military commitment and a sense of responsibility is the name of the game.
Sometimes a small skirmish can trigger war. But the combination of weak, cowardly people and soldiers is an unmistakable recipe of disasters.