Jinju’s fortress received its first serious test in October of 1592, during the first attacks of what was to be a prolonged Japanese invasion. Like Admiral Yi along the coast in Yeosu, General Kim Si-min held the fort despite being heavily outnumbered, with records claiming that 30,000 Japanese soldiers were seen off by just 3800 local troops. The following June, the Japanese returned in greater numbers, with up to 100,000 soldiers eager to obliterate the shame of their previous defeat, and it is estimated that 70,000 Koreans were killed during a week-long siege. Every tragedy needs a hero – or, in this case, a heroine – and this time a local girl named Nongae, one of several girls selected to “entertain” the Japanese top-dogs after their victory, stepped into the breach. After using her charms to lure Japanese general Keyamura to what should have been a suspiciously lofty position on the riverside cliff, she jumped to her death, bringing the general down with her. A festival commemorating Nongae’s patriotic valour takes place in the fortress each May, while General Kim’s memory lives on in statue form at the centre of the fortress.

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