Choe Mu Son

Painting: Jinpho Naval Battle
Painting: Jinpho Naval Battle. (Photo Credit Ryugyong)

A military officer in the time of Koryo, Choe Mu Son (1326–1395) was an inventor of gunpowder and firearms.

In the latter half of the 14th century the incessant intrusions of Japanese pirates brought serious calamities to the people of Koryo. He believed that gunpowder was the most formidable weapon to repulse the Japanese pirates.

Through his painstaking efforts and experiments for several years, he finally found out a method of making nitre, the raw material for gunpowder.

Based on this, he succeeded in making various firearms. According to the suggestion of Choe to mass-produce fire-arms, an ordnance department in charge of their production was set up in 1377 and he was appointed its chief.

He made powder, firearms and even shells by relying on the creative wisdom of the handicraftsmen recruited to the arsenal.

In 1378 a unit armed with new weapons was formed. Under his dissection the building of a warship to be equipped with cannons was pushed forward for the first time.

The power of the powder and firearms invented by Choe was displayed in the Jinpho and Pakduyang naval battles in 1380 and 1383 respectively.

Choe Mu Son took part in the naval battle off the coast of Jinpho, Jolla Province as vice-commander of the fleet.

In the battle between over 100 Koryo warships and more than 500 Japanese pirate ships, the Koryo naval forces rained gun-fire on the Japanese vessels, setting the pirate ships on fire and destroying them all.

The victory of the battle marked a turning point in the fights against the persistent intrusion of Japanese pirates from the mid-14th century.

The patriotic struggle of the Koryo people and their use of powder weapons remarkably discouraged the Japanese pirates from invasion on the land of Korea.

For his invention and manufacture of powder weapons and contribution to the buildup of military strength, Choe Mu Son was promoted to a higher official post and, later, in the feudal Joson dynasty, too, remained in a high office.

He handed down a book of his writing on the method of making gunpowder to his son Choe Hae San through his wife.

Hae San further developed the method of making gunpowder and devised many powder weapons.

To this day the name of Choe Mu Son is widely known among the people.

(Uriminzokkiri - December 6, 2020)

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