When Hwang Hee was talking to the crown prince in #21 about not giving up the fight, he dropped in a line that completely stumped me: "Do you think Han Xin crawled between the enemy's legs because he liked it?" So I checked into it, and just in case anybody else was wondering....Han Xin was a renowned Chinese general who lived around 200 BC. According to his Wikipedia biography:
Han's father died early, and, like many Chinese at the time, he lived a childhood in destitution. It was believed that Han Xin was from a noble family, which allowed him to carry a sword with him, which he did all the time during his younger years. It was said that once a hoodlum saw him with his sword and challenged him to use it to fight and decapitate him (the hoodlum) or crawl between his legs. Han Xin knew at that time that if he were to fight, he would be at a great disadvantage as the bully was much stronger and bigger. So instead of putting up a fight, he did as he was told. This incident, as he recalled later, was the best thing that could have happened to him because instead of letting his misfortunes handle his life, he used this event as a stepping stone toward achieving his ambitions. After a couple of years of striving, he was able to master the art of war and, not long after, became one of the greatest strategists of all time.
This must be a very well know story because it was also brought up in IYSS. Yi Soon-shin wanted the Military Service Exam to include all men regardless of social status. Peasants were not allowed to take the exam. He needed talented, qualified men to put in important posts as the navy was growing. There was such outrage and suspicion about his motives for doing this that Yi Sung-ryung wrote a letter to Soon-shin to persuade him to give up the idea because of what King Sunjo might do. In it he told YSS to "Let history be a lesson to you. Han Xin didn't crawl between the legs of his enemy because he lacked strength and courage, sometimes you must bend in order to not break. Please give in this time." Crown Prince Kwang-hae finally agreed to Soon-shin's request.
After the Crown Prince gave his consent, he was before his father defending his decision. He made reference to King Sejong. He said "King Sejong appointed Jang-Youngsil, a peasant, to a position as a high official. Look at all his accomplishments including the Water Clock that is still in use. Talent should be put to service regardless of social caste. This was over 150 years ago."