Hwacha

A hwacha or hwach'a (fire cart) was a multiple rocket launcher developed by Koreans and deployed in the defence of Korea against Japanese invasion in the 1590s. It had the ability to fire up to 200 singijeon, a type of fire arrow rocket, at one time. The hwacha consisted of a two-wheeled cart carrying a board filled with holes into which the singijeon were inserted.

Some East Asian historians believe this technological breakthrough, alongside the turtle ship in the mid-16th century, had a distinctive effect during the Imjin War. Today, hwachas appear in Korean museums, national parks, and popular culture.

Country Name Origin Year
Korea 1590
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Korea View

Long before the development of the hwachas, China imposed severe restrictions on exporting gunpowder to Joseon Korea, fiercely guarding a military asset. Yet gunpowder weapons were key to the Koreans in maintaining a predominant navy in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) to protect fishermen and merchants against the increasing numbers of invading Japanese and Wokou pirates.

In response, there was an effort by Koreans to develop gunpowder on their own. Korea first began production of gunpowder during the period 1374–76. In 1377 a Korean scholar named Choe Mu-seon discovered a way to obtain it by extracting potassium nitrate from the soil and subsequently invented the juhwa, Korea's very first rocket. Further developments led to the birth of the family of singijeons.

The hwacha was a further development from the juhwa and the singijeon. The first hwacha was developed in Korea in 1409 during the Joseon Dynasty by several Korean scientists, including Yi Do and Choi Hae-san.

During the rule of Sejong the Great, hwachas were further developed and extensively made. Records show that during this time 90 hwachas were in use. King Sejong, famous for his contribution to Hangul, made efforts to improve the hwacha and by the end of his rule a single hwacha could fire 200 rocket arrows at one time.

Stronger and more effective hwachas were made in 1451 under the decree of King Munjong. At the time, 50 units were deployed in Hanseong (present-day Seoul), and another 80 on the northern border. By the end of 1451, hundreds of hwachas were deployed throughout the peninsula.

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