South Gyeongsang Province

The Turtle Ship of Tongyeong

Taking a trip to the port city of Tongyeong? If so, I highly recommend visiting the Turtle Ship! At sunset, this place is absolutely magical. The Turtle Ship is one of Korea’s greatest pride and joys and has a rich history. Curious about the name and what makes it special? Let’s take a look at Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang and the glorious Tongyeong Turtle Ship!

Anyone who is curious about Korea’s interesting past will love visiting this nautical treasure. Furthermore, any boat lovers will no doubt enjoy it as well! You can read about some of the fascinating events that occurred here from the plaques dotted around the exhibit. However, not all information is available in English, so if you can understand Korean, you’ll learn a lot more. Why not go along with a Korean friend who can help you out?

On that note, if you are new to the Korean language or are interested in learning it click >> here <<

Turtle Ship of Tongyeong: A Brief History

Tongyeong’s Turtle Ship is a replica of the giant warship used by the Korean Royal Navy during the Joseon era. In fact, the ship even saw battles against invading Japanese forces. The ship gets its name from the nature of its structure, which resembles that of a turtle’s shell. Furthermore, the Turtle Ship was armoured to become an ‘Ironclad’, protected my strong metal to repel enemy attack. The Tongyeong ship was just one of many Korean turtle ships, which date back to the 15th century.

While the turtle ships weren’t initially that powerful or well-constructed, Admiral Yi Sun-sin has been credited in improving the design and leading the Korean naval fleet to victory in 16 battles with the Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-8.) However, most of fleet was destroyed in the Battle of Chilchonryang, led by Admiral Won Gyun, who replaced Yi Sun-sin after he refused to obey the King’s orders, for tactical reasons.

Turtle Ship ‘Geobukseon’ Design

The most unique feature of the turtle ship — apart from the turtle shell roof — is the dragon’s head on the bow. The dragon’s head was designed to conjur fear from the enemies, as well as a physical weapon. In keeping with the mystic tales of dragons, crew would burn poisonous materials in the head, releasing the flames and gas towards the impeding enemy.

The ship itself was well-protected from fire, due to the iron-clad ‘shell’ lined with iron spikes. The turtle ships were somewhat flat-bottomed, wide vessels designed mainly for shoreline defense, rather than deep sea voyages. However, as their history shows, they were incredibly innovative for their time, and only by trap and outnumbering methods were they able to be defeated by the Japanese.

Turtle Ship Tongyeong Experience

Going inside the turtle ship is truly a one-of-a-kind chance to see history up close. When you enter, imagine Admiral Yi Sun-sin, the 50 midship men and 70 sailors in battle. Furthermore, it is even stranger to think that a boat just like this one was sailed over 600 years ago!

Additionally, towards the northern side of the Gangguan promenade, you will find four more turtle ships.


Tourists come to Tongyeong for two things: oysters and the Tongyeong Turtle Ship replica. Therefore, enjoy your trip to the seaside, eating delicious food and going on a maritime adventure to the past! I recommend going at sunset for the best experience and photos. Afterwards, why not check out the Garden of Lights?


Turtle Ship Tongyeong

Address: 642-4 Donam-dong, Tongyeong-si, Gyeongnam-do
Operating Hours: 9:00am - 5:00pm everydyay
Directions: Take bus no. 51, 53, 55, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 113, 121, 128, 139, 141, 143, 144, 181 or 184 to Nampo Elementary School stop. 

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🇵🇰 Majid Mushtaq

Majid Mushtaq is a passionate content creation wizard, Youtuber, traveler, and selfie-fanatic. He is currently living in Seoul and after being bitten by the travel bug, he has been to 25 countries. He loves writing about cultures, technology, food and more food. Gracias :)