The first Mongol invasions of 1231 forced the Koreans to capitulate and reconsider their defensive posture.

In an attempt to overthrow the newly imposed tributes of the Mongols, the Koreans (at the command of Choe U) relocated their royal court and the population of Gaesong on the mainland to a more defensible location on Ganghwa Island in the Bay of Gyeonggi in 1232. Over time, this island became a fortress stronghold capital. The royal family and commanders weathered many campaigns by the Mongols. They commanded from Ganghwa Island until they were forced by the Mongols to move the capital back to the mainland in 1258.

The Koreans similarly evacuated to Ganghwa Island during the first Manchu invasion in 1627. During the second invasion, the Manchu forces ensured this would not happen by blocking off the island to prevent resistance, leading to their quick victory.

It is obvious that the invasions share similarities in that they were stymied by the strategic bastion that was Ganghwa Island.

Are there additional tactical or strategic similarities that both Mongol and Manchu invasions shared during their conquest of the Korean Peninsula?

  • VTC as it's too broad
    – John Dee
    Oct 26, 2018 at 20:50
  • @JohnDee Very kind of you :)
    – Courtny
    Oct 27, 2018 at 2:26

1 Answer 1


Really the only strategic similarity you've pointed out is the value of an island fortress. Looking into it deeper, I'm not sure there's much more to it than that.

The core of the Mongol army was their horse archers. The combination of being faster than anyone they faced and being able to attack at range was devastating to the typical non-nomadic foot army of levied peasants. However, on both ends of the continent they always had much more trouble with sieges. The tactic of retreating to strong points appears to have been as effective for the Koreans as it was for the Poles, with Ganghwa Island being a particularly strong point.

I had trouble digging up the composition of the first Manchu invasion force, but the Koreans opposing them by this time were no longer foot archers and peasants with pointy sticks, but rather primarily musketeers. This is the force composition that had turned the Asiatic steppe from a place to be feared into a power vacuum, and the invading Manchu didn't have nearly the same bugaboo about taking fortified cities as the Mongols, so it appears they probably had a least some semblance of a modern army as well.

But of course a good island fortress is still a tough nut to crack, particularly if you don't have a navy. The Koreans managed to hold out long enough that their Chinese allies/overlords were able to dispatch an army strong enough to convince the Manchu commanders to a peace settlement.

When they came back 10 years later, its pretty clear the Manchus had learned some lessons. It was definitely a combined-arms force they brought with them with (Chinese) musketeers and artillery. They dispatched a unit of (Mongol) Calvary to ensure the leadership didn't evacuate to that annoying fortress, and brought themselves a Naval force to forestall any equally-annoying reinforcements from China.


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