For much of the 16th century Korea was relatively peaceful. It was a loyal vassal of Ming China, and while it certainly had internal problems and conflicts, it was largely undisturbed by its neighbours. That all changed in 1592 when a massive invasion by Japan threw the ill-prepared country into chaos, causing war and famine for the next six years until the Japanese were expelled. In the following century Korea suffered two further invasions, both from the Jurchen tribe (later called Manchu), all of which revealed the shortcomings of the country’s military establishment. Korean strength lay in defence of fortified positions, and in her navy, but her cavalry was largely based on that of the neighbouring Jurchens, who were very good horsemen, yet Korean cavalry rarely matched that quality.
Sadly we could find no respectable amount of evidence for the cavalry of Korea during the two hundred years covered by this set and its fellows in the RedBox range. With close ties and similar influences, much of it must have been very similar to that of Ming China, but these light cavalrymen are quite distinctive as they all wear the stiffened Korean felt hat, here with a particularly large brim (which must get in the way of using the bow?). The robe they wear is classic garb of the time, and there is no sign of any armour. Five are archers, as was much of the cavalry, and four are using this weapon in various poses, all of which we liked. The fifth man has drawn his sword and looks to his right, while the sixth has a long spear which he is using against a dismounted opponent. All these are valid weapons, and we have no evidence to doubt the accuracy of anything here.
The horses in the set are not the ones illustrated on the box for some reason, but they are the same as those found in several other RedBox sets released at the same time. We found the poses ranged from decent to bad, but unfortunately none of the riders can be persuaded to sit on them. The riders, who are in any case rather too big for Koreans of the period, are also much too large to squeeze on the saddles, so a lot of work will be necessary to make them fit, which is poor. In addition the horses are awash with flash - some examples we found in our copies were worse than those pictured. Add to that some really bad definition on some of the legs, and the horses are at best a grave disappointment and at worst good for very little.
The men themselves, though too large as we have said, and nicely sculpted for the most part, with good detail on the clothing and mostly reasonable work on hands and faces. However they too have a good deal of flash, and the man with the spear has lost much of his hat in an apparent major problem with filling the mould. As with the horses however here too we found areas where the sculptor seems to have forgotten to do both sides of the piece, so the feather on the man drawing his bow is textured on the rear side but simply smooth plastic on the other.
The lack of good information on these men means we are not able to give a valid opinion on their accuracy, but their sculpting is generally good if unfinished in places. The fact that no man can fit on any horse is a really basic problem, however, and the large amount of flash seriously defaces what could have been quite an attractive set. With far more problems than it should have had, this is not a set to attract customers to this era in Asian history, and so must rank as unsatisfactory by any measure.