Korea in the 16th and 17th centuries maintained a close relationship with Ming China, and followed its lead in many things, including its military forces. Chinese cavalry was not particularly good at this period, and it seems much the same is true of Korean cavalry, although this was partly down to the relatively low numbers they could field. Korean military control was also very inefficient, often very badly led and prone to fractional infighting at the highest level, all of which contributed to the poor showing of the armies against the main threats the country would face during this time, the twin Japanese invasions of the 1590s and the Jurchen invasions of 1627 and 1636.
The six poses in this set portray the classic Korean heavy cavalryman, whose appearance barely changed over these long years of strife. The ornate and tall helmet tops a heavily armoured warrior with what looks like lamellar armour. Although we found little detailed information, these figures match perfectly with those illustrations that do exist. As most cavalry were archers, all these men carry a bow, but the emphasis here is on their other weapons. The long spears, polearm and trident are all familiar weapons of Korean cavalry, as is the flail being used by the middle figure in our second row. The first figure in that row seems to have a ball and chain, a weapon we could not authenticate, although neither can we disprove.
Modelling men handling long polearms is tricky at the best of times, and more so when they are mounted. Two of these poses are simply holding theirs upright, which is easy enough but a useful pose nonetheless. Another is somewhat clumsily pointing it to one side but still looking straight ahead, which we found unconvincing, but the fourth, the first pictured above, holds his well ahead of him and is an excellent pose. There is inevitably some excess plastic here, but most will find it is worth it for a really good posture. The man with the ball and chain is however very awkward. He holds the staff over the middle of his head, and the ball is touching his sheathed bow, so it all seems to be going terribly wrong for him. Doubtless this helps the flow of plastic in the mould, but the pose is very poor.
The horses are the same as those found in some other sets of Korean and Chinese cavalry from this company. They have no protection at all, which is not obligatory, but we would have liked to have seen at least one animal given their own armour. As these are the same horses as many other sets, our unimpressed comments about them apply here too, with a great deal of flash and some unfinished parts where legs are single-sided and detail is swamped in a sea of uncontrolled plastic.
The level of detail on the men is really good, and finer elements like the armour and the arrows are very nicely done. There is some flash on them, however, although not nearly as much as on the horses. They are rather too large for 16th century Asians, but sadly their legs are much too close together to allow them to sit, or even hover, on any of the horses. One might even speculate whether they were sculpted with these animals in mind, since the gulf between the intent and the reality is so great. Given the quite large size of the men, the horses also give a rather feeble appearance, leaving you to wonder how they would handle the weight of such a man even if he could sit on them.
Some very nice sculpting of the men is gravely let down by the poor moulding of the horses and the inability to match man with animal in any combination. What should have been an impressive collection of heavy cavalry is in fact far from it, leaving us to bemoan the mistakes that left us with a set that had plenty of potential but actually delivers little but frustration.