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    The court engaged in a heated debate over the issue of “having people reside on Mureungdo (Ulleungdo).”

    “Overturning the policy implemented by the previous king after much consideration is an act of unfilial piety! Causing His Majesty to commit an unfilial act is an act of disloyalty!”

    Some opposed, arguing that reversing the policy implemented by King Taejong was a disloyal act, but a rebuttal immediately emerged.

    “The reason the previous king implemented the repatriation policy was for the national interest of Joseon! As time has passed and circumstances have changed, it is natural to change the policy!”

    As they were losing ground in the justification argument, the opposition brought up another reason to continue their opposition.

    “If people are allowed to reside on Mureungdo, soldiers must also be stationed there for defense! It’s an unnecessary expense!”

    “It’s not an unnecessary expense! It’s for national defense!”

    “We must consider the finances!”

    As the opposition mentioned finances, King Sejong stared silently at Kim Jeom.

    Receiving the unspoken question, Kim Jeom gave an unexpected answer.

    “As for the finances… If we don’t wage a war to conquer all of Japan right now, and if we don’t try to do everything at once on Mureungdo, we can manage it.”

    “Are you certain?”

    At King Sejong’s question, Kim Jeom answered firmly.

    “Our Joseon, although still in progress, has grown significantly.”

    With Kim Jeom’s answer, King Sejong made a decision.

    “Establish a naval garrison on Mureungdo. Once the garrison is properly established, relocate the residents there.”

    At King Sejong’s determination, the ministers all bowed and replied in unison.

    “We shall obey your command!”

    With King Sejong’s decision made, the next steps proceeded swiftly.

    ‘Is it the aftermath of the purge still lingering? Or has the constitution changed through the Gyeongjang Reforms?’

    While Hyang was observing the ministers with a newfound perspective, the ministers were diligently coordinating the situation.

    “Is there a place to build a port on Mureungdo?”

    At Lee Jik’s question, Jo Mal-saeng unfolded a map and answered.

    “Before the repatriation order was implemented, a pacification commissioner was dispatched. This is the map created by those who accompanied him at that time.”

    After providing a brief explanation about the map, Jo Mal-saeng pointed to the eastern part of the island and spoke.

    “The most suitable area is this small bay on the east side. There is an even larger bay to the south, but it is directly adjacent to a mountain slope, making it difficult to construct a garrison. Moreover, the entire bay is directly exposed to the open sea, so when high waves surge in due to storms, it is impossible to stop them.”

    The ministers nodded at Jo Mal-saeng’s explanation.

    While nodding, Maeng Sa-seong pointed out the next issue.

    “It seems like a suitable location. Then, what type of warship do you think would be best to station there? The Turtle Ship again?”

    As Maeng Sa-seong mentioned the Turtle Ship, Jo Mal-saeng shook his head.

    “The Turtle Ship won’t do. The Turtle Ship cannot catch up with the Japanese ships. Furthermore, while the Turtle Ship’s hull design is superior in inland seas like the West Sea or the South Sea, it becomes unstable when venturing into the open sea.”

    “Then what about medium-sized ships or large-medium ships?”

    “They are also not suitable for the open sea. Moreover, they cannot carry sufficient cannons.”

    “Then what kind of warship… Surely not the new warship?”

    When Maeng Sa-seong mentioned the ‘new warship,’ Kim Jeom’s face contorted. As if understanding Kim Jeom’s feelings, Jo Mal-saeng shook his head.

    “The new warship is too excessive.”

    Jo Mal-saeng, who also rejected the new warship, bowed to King Sejong and spoke.

    “Your Majesty, may I ask the Crown Prince?”

    “I permit it.”

    With King Sejong’s permission, Jo Mal-saeng asked Hyang.

    “How long would it take to design and create a warship with a hull shape similar to the new warship but slightly smaller in size?”

    At Jo Mal-saeng’s question, Hyang promptly replied.

    “Please provide specific criteria. How many cannons should it carry, what should be the overall size, and how long should it be able to stay at sea once it sets sail, and so on.”

    At Hyang’s request, Jo Mal-saeng stepped back and began discussing with the officials from the Ministry of Military Affairs and the naval officers from the General Staff Headquarters.

    Although their voices rose a few times, Jo Mal-saeng quickly coordinated their opinions and returned to answer Hyang.

    “For the cannons, around 10 eul-class general cannons and 20 grapeshot cannons. Also, since the main mission is to patrol the vicinity of Mureungdo and Usando, the food and water supply should be sufficient for a maximum of 3 to 5 days. However, the more cannon shells and gunpowder it can carry, the better.”

    “How many ships do you need?”

    “A minimum of 6 ships. They will operate in pairs, rotating between patrolling, standby, and maintenance.”

    “Hmm… Give me a moment.”

    While Hyang was calculating in his head, King Sejong intervened.

    “Isn’t 10 general cannons too few? Wouldn’t it be better to increase it a bit more?”

    King Sejong, who was deeply enchanted by the cannons, felt uneasy about the small number of cannons. However, Jo Mal-saeng rejected King Sejong’s request.

    “Considering the performance of the Japanese ships, around 10 cannons should be sufficient.”

    “Still…”

    “The combination of eul-class general cannons, grapeshot cannons, and arquebuses will be more than enough to deal with the Japanese pirates.”

    “Is that so? Hmm… I will trust your words.”

    While King Sejong was hiding his regret, Hyang was enthusiastically engaging in his hobby.

    ‘Considering the number of cannons and the duration of operations, a two-deck ship is unnecessary. Then a clipper? A sloop? A clipper would be better for speed, so a mini-clipper? Yes! Let’s go with a clipper!’

    Having finished his mental indulgence and reached a conclusion, Hyang answered Jo Mal-saeng.

    “It will take about four months for the design, model testing, and construction of a prototype ship. If the performance is satisfactory, we can build 6 ships within 2 years.”

    “Isn’t that too much time?”

    “There are quite a few new warships currently on standby.”

    “Ah… If that’s the case… So you’re saying we can receive 3 ships within a year?”

    “One year and four months.”

    At Hyang’s answer, Jo Mal-saeng nodded.

    “That’s acceptable.”

    ‘It’s a bit regrettable, but if the desired performance is achieved, 3 ships should be sufficient for the time being.’

    “Wait a moment!”

    Just then, Kim Jeom intervened.

    “Building the new warships already requires a significant budget, and now you want to develop another new ship? Let’s just use the Turtle Ships. Turtle Ships! Or just use the new warships!”

    At Kim Jeom’s words, Hyang promptly replied.

    “Since it’s smaller than the Challenger-class, it won’t require as much budget.”

    “Still… Isn’t it a waste to create a new ship just to build 6 of them?”

    Kim Jeom’s point was valid.

    While Jo Mal-saeng, backed into a corner, was contemplating an answer, one of the officers who had been discussing in the back approached Jo Mal-saeng and whispered in his ear.

    “Huh? Hmm… I see… Yes… That’s right.”

    Jo Mal-saeng, who had been nodding while listening to the officer’s words, looked at Kim Jeom with a bright face.

    “It may not end with just 6 ships.”

    “What kind of novel idea is that… Gasp!”

    While glancing at Kim Jeom, who was blocking his unfiltered words, Jo Mal-saeng bowed to King Sejong and spoke.

    “Your Majesty, if the performance of the newly designed warship proves to be satisfactory, Japan will not be able to venture out to sea as they please!”

    “Explain in detail.”

    “Yes, Your Majesty.”

    At King Sejong’s command, Jo Mal-saeng gestured to the officer standing behind him.

    The officer who came forward at Jo Mal-saeng’s gesture saluted King Sejong.

    “Loyalty! I am Son I-seop, a naval commander (manho, rank 4)!”

    “Very well. Provide your explanation.”

    At King Sejong’s order, Son I-seop gestured to his colleagues. Shortly after, a large map was placed on a scroll stand.

    “This map depicts our Joseon, Japan, and Ming.”

    Son I-seop pointed to Japan with a pointer and began his explanation.

    “These three islands here are Japan. According to the Japanese merchants who frequent the Japanese settlement, there is a large island in the north, but it is not yet Japanese territory.”

    At Son I-seop’s explanation, Hyang muttered to himself.

    ‘Hokkaido is not yet Japanese territory? We should quickly seize it.’

    During this period, Hokkaido was a foreign land even to Japan.

    Hokkaido became part of Japan’s territory during the Sengoku period. However, it was only recognized as a proper part of Japan’s territory after the Meiji Restoration.

    While Hyang was having such thoughts, Son I-seop continued his explanation.

    “As you can see on the map, the merchant ships of the Muslims coming for trade turn their bows northward near Jeju Island and come up. And the trade route with Japan starts from Dongnae and goes to either Tsushima or Kyushu.”

    “That’s right.”

    King Sejong nodded at Son I-seop’s explanation. Son I-seop pointed to Jeju Island with the pointer and continued his explanation.

    “If the ships currently being developed are stationed on Jeju Island, we can ensure the safety of the maritime trade routes.”

    “Oh?”

    “Furthermore…”

    Son I-seop paused for a moment and pointed to Tsushima and Kyushu with the pointer.

    “If we incorporate Tsushima and Kyushu here into our Joseon’s sphere of influence, the Japanese pirates will not easily look down on our Joseon.”

    “That’s true.”

    “Indeed, it is.”

    King Sejong and the ministers nodded at Son I-seop’s explanation.

    Son I-seop continued to point to Mureungdo and drew an imaginary straight line to the northeast.

    “The previously developed eastern advancement strategy is not only important for land routes but also for sea routes. If we secure Wonsan, Mureungdo, and the islands that may exist in the north and establish naval bases, the sea east of Ming will fall into our Joseon’s hands. If that happens, our Joseon will need the Challenger-class ships and the newly developed ships more than the Turtle Ships.”

    “Wouldn’t that endanger the coastal defense?”

    As Chief State Councillor Lee Jik, who had been listening to the conversation, pointed out, Son I-seop promptly replied.

    “We can change the navy’s warship operation strategy from passive defense to active defense.”

    “Active defense?”

    “Instead of waiting for them to come, we go out first and strike them. To make this possible, fast and powerful ships are the best.”

    “Hmm…”

    After contemplating for a moment, King Sejong turned to Hyang.

    “What do you think?”

    At King Sejong’s question, Hyang immediately replied.

    “The issue with the shipyards can be resolved by expanding the shipyard in Wonsan and hiring more personnel. However, the biggest problem is the supply of timber. If we only obtain timber from Joseon, all the mountains in Joseon will become bare.”

    Unlike in later periods, Joseon during this time did not lack forest resources. However, there was fierce competition to obtain the straight and tall timber used for constructing warships.

    This was because the timber with straight and solid wood grain was not only used for warships but also for construction.

    Moreover, trees did not grow quickly.

    The trees used for warship or construction materials were at least 10 to 20 years old.

    That meant if they recklessly engaged in deforestation without any consideration, they would find themselves in a situation where they couldn’t do anything due to the lack of trees.

    Having pointed out this problem, Hyang immediately continued.

    “I think we should start exploring the area east of the Tumen River starting this year. If we can find the forest area that I have only seen in books, we can immediately solve the timber problem.”

    “That’s the only answer. I should send an order to Hwang Hee. If the timber issue is resolved, does that solve everything?”

    At King Sejong’s question, Hyang looked at Kim Jeom and answered.

    “It solves 90% of the problem. Building warships in large quantities means that the craftsmen will continue to work. The more work there is, the more skilled the craftsmen will become, which means we can reduce unnecessary budget waste.”

    “I see. What does the Minister of Taxation think?”

    At King Sejong’s question, Kim Jeom answered with a resigned expression.

    “If Joseon’s commerce and industry can continue to grow in size as they are now, you will achieve your goal.”

    “I will trust only you.”

    “I will do my utmost until I die.”

    As Kim Jeom waved the white flag, King Sejong reached a conclusion.

    “Proceed according to the Ministry of Military Affairs’ plan. If we can block the foreign enemies threatening Joseon at sea, we can prevent our territory from being harmed, so how could it not be a good thing?”

    Despite making the decision, King Sejong did not forget to give a word of caution.

    “However! If you cannot control your greed and overdo it, the people will suffer, and the Gyeongjang Reforms will fail, so you must keep this in mind and act accordingly.”

    At King Sejong’s admonition, the ministers replied in unison.

    “We will keep it in mind and carry it out!”

    The court historian who recorded all these events added the following:

    • …In accordance with His Majesty’s decision, the development and mass production of new warships were decided.

    The historian comments:

    It is natural to strive to protect the royal ancestral shrines and the people’s well-being and to devote efforts to defense. However, as His Majesty said, it is something that should be avoided if other areas are harmed for the sake of defense.

    For the time being, I should not even go near the Ministry of Taxation.

    The Minister of Military Affairs seems likely to serve for a long time.

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