When was the world’s first naval gun battle?

Naval artillery battles have a significant meaning in history because the emergence of naval power shifted power from Asia to Europe. European naval fleets armed with powerful artillery dominated the sea, enabling European countries to take power. Many believe that the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 between the Venetian-Genoese-Spanish allies and the Ottoman Turks was the beginning of modern naval gun battles. However, over 190 years earlier than the Battle of Lepanto, in 1380, Goryeo’s Navy defeated Japanese forces with its artillery-mounted warships at the Battle of Jinpo under General Choi Museon’s leadership.

How did Goryeo’s Navy become the first to mount artillery on warships? Goryeo (918-1392) was plagued by Japan’s frequent invasions. To defeat Japanese raiders, Goryeo built warships and organized strong naval forces. This wasn’t enough. So, Choi Museon (1325-1395), Goryeo’s military commander and scientist, came up with the idea of installing cannons on warships. He invented Korean native gunpowder by researching China’s gunpowder technology. After the invention, he suggested to the government the establishment of an office devoted to producing artillery. In 1377, Goryeo opened a government office called Hwatong Dogam dedicated to artillery production.

Goryeosa, a series of historical records about Goryeo, describes the Battle of Jinpo like the following: “Naval cannons burned down enemy ships … Smoke and flames covered the sky, and enemy soldiers went down in flames or drowned after jumping off their ships.” General Choi marked a turning point in naval history by adopting artillery for naval battles. Goryeo’s naval artillery technology was further developed by Joseon, contributing to Joseon’s victories against Japan during the Imjin War (1592-98) under Admiral Yi Sun-sin’s leadership.