37 miles later and we arrive in Chunghyo Ri, originally Seokjeo Village, where Kim Duk Ryang was born into a peasant family in 1567. He became a student of Neo-Confucian scholar Seong-Hon, and later joined the army with his brother Kim Duk Hong when Hideyoshi Toyotomi led Japan to invade Korea in the Imjin War.
Kim Duk Hong was sadly killed at the battle of Guemsan, but Kim Duk Ryang assembled an army of 5,000 local volunteers and fought the Japanese again at Damyang. He was appointed a senior official of the Ministry of Justice by King Seonjo, and later also Royal Messenger, being given the name General Yikho. He defeated Japanese troops at Jinhae and Goseong with Commander-in-Chief Kwon Yul, and later also with Admiral Yi Sun Sin. The Japanese nicknamed him General Seokjeo, and after the battle of Jeongam King Seonjo gave him the military title Choongyonggun.
In 1596 Yi Mong-Hak started a rebellion and subordinates of the King who had grown jealous of Kim’s reputation had him falsely implicated. King Seonjo had Kim arrested and bound to a tree with chains, but Kim apparently laughed and said “I bowed [to] you to defeat the Japanese invaders because you gave me many rewards. But how could I ever plot against this country? If I were such a person, what kind of punishment is this helpless tree?” before tearing off the chains with his bare hands.
Despite efforts from many ministers to aid Kim’s release, he was kept a prisoner; it is said that as part of his torture his skin was peeled from his body and his shins were broken, before being executed at the age of 29 (not 27 as many sources claim). Kim was finally exonerated of the crimes 65 years after his death when it was revealed that the charges were based on false testimonies. Kim’s loyalty and bravery did not go unrecognised, as he was awarded the posthumous title “Minister of War” by King Suk-Jong in 1681, the title of “Chungjanggong” by King Jeong-Jo in the late 18th century, and “Head of Parliament” in 1788. His hometown of Seokjo Village, where we are now, was also renamed Chunghyo Ri, meaning the place of loyalty and family devotion.
In 1889 a shrine was built by Kim’s ancestors called the Chigajeong Pavillion, where there is a tombstone carved with a poem. Another shrine called the Chungjangsa Shrine was built at Kim’s ancestral home in 1975, facing the Mudang Mountain. In this shrine are some his clothes and samples of his handwriting. He is buried in a tomb behind the shrine, where his gravestone can be found.
We will be marking our arrival here with 37 sit ups before continuing a short 17 miles east to another birthplace.