Namhansanseong Fortress holds a significance in Korea’s history as a stage for major historical events. And the stories related to the events have been popular references in Korean literature and arts.
One of the most popular episodes is a war tale surrounding the second invasion of the Manchus in 1636.
The invasion forced Joseon’s King Injo to flee to the fortress, who then held out against the Qing military for 47 days.
What happened inside the fortress during those 47 days inspired writers to recreate the so-called “days of humiliation at Namhansanseong.”
Joseon, which was in a tributary relationship with the Ming Dynasty, was deeply divided between a group insisting on continuing the relationship with the Ming and another group calling for an alliance with the Qing.
It is said that King Injo spent days agonizing over which side to take.
“The historical incident reminds us of the significance Namhansanseong Fortress holds in East Asian history. It was the central stage of power dynamics when the Ming Dynasty was on the decline and the Qing Dynasty was on the rise in China,” wrote Choi Jae-heon, a geography professor of Konkuk University.
Journals depicting the invasion say the scene at Namhansanseong Fortress 376 years ago bears witness to how the fortress was surrounded by the Qing’s army, which blocked provisions and official letters to the king.
The blockade caused King Injo to change his course and write peace proposals to the Qing.
While the king and his staff were figuring a way out, soldiers starved to death and even food for the king was running low, according to historical records.
The 47 days of struggle ended when King Injo stepped out of the fortress and surrendered to the Qing emperor, dealing great physical and psychological damage to Joseon.
King Injo’s kowtowing to the Qing Emperor Taizon on Jan. 30, 1637, is remembered as one of the most humiliating moments in Korean history.
The incident has been recreated in novels and musical performances that are appreciated by many audiences for the dramatic developments that took place in a short period of time.
Famous novelist Kim Hun wrote the historical novel “Namhansanseong,” and the best-selling novel also became inspiration for a musical by the same title.
The musical is famous for its final scene signifying King Injo’s surrender. When King Injo bowed to the Manchus, he hit his forehead against the ground until he bled.
Exhibitions of relics and records from Namhansanseong Fortress have been held at public and private museums across the country, including the recent special exhibition at Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art in 2011.
By Lee Woo-young (email@example.com