Suwon is one of the Korean cities that I have visited most. It is the capital of Gyeonggi-do, which is South Korea’s most populous province. Suwon is located about 30 kilometers south of Seoul, South Korea’s capital, and has a population of over 1 million. Traditionally it was known as “The City of Filial Piety” and is home to the Hwaseong Fortress.
Hwaseong Fortress was built as part of a planned city constructed by King Jeongjo, the 22nd monarch of the Joseon Dynasty. It served as the southern gate of the capital city of Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. Located in Suwon, Gyeonggi-do, the area of Hwaseong Fortress served as a strategic site for military security as well as key site for commerce.
Today, Hwaseong Fortress is surrounded by many roads both small and large, in addition to the Gyeonggi Provincial Government Building, giving all the opportunity to view the scenic juxtaposition of old and modern architecture. For a quick and convenient way to visit a variety of attractions during your stay in Suwon, take a ride on the Suwon City Tour, operated by the city Government. Accompanied by guides who are proficient in English and Japanese, you’ll be able to ride in comfort as you discover some of the most celebrated treasures of the city.1
But there is much more to Suwon besides the fortress, including the Haenggung Palaces. Here are a few pictures of my walks around Suwon:
The chaplains and assistants in the brigade run a command-emphasized program for Soldiers just arriving to the brigade to learn how to use the public transportation system, order and eat at a Korean restaurant and visit a Korean cultural site. You can read more about these trips here.
We usually run these trips twice a month with little fanfare or excitement, but this day, because Suwon was preparing for a big festival on the weekend, the mayor was in the area and asked to talk to us. This is pretty significant, realizing that Suwon is a city with a population of over 1 million.
Mayor Yeom Tae-Young talked about his appreciation for our presence and told us some of the history of Suwon and the fortress we were there to visit. He also asked to have a picture taken with us (which we also wanted with him), then encouraged us to have a great visit and to come back for the festival.
One of the commander’s programs that I run as the chaplain is an orientation for newcomers to the brigade which gives newly-arrived Soldiers guided experience using public transportation, visiting a cultural site and eating at a Korean restaurant. Not wanting my first time there to be when I lead my first group, today my chaplain assistant took me, along with my incoming assistant and our KATUSA, on the trip to “recon” the site and “rehearse” our movement.
We started by meeting on post near the dining facility then taking the post shuttle to the gate. Exiting the gate, we walked to the train/subway station and got on the #4 southbound train (toward Samgakji) at the Sookmyung Women’s University stop. After changing trains in Geumjeong onto the #1 southbound (toward Gunpo), we arrived at the Suwon station. Making our way to ground level, we caught a bus (can take either the #11 or #13) to the fortress. After visiting the fortress then walking to the restaurant for lunch, we made our way back to the bus stop (again, either #11 or #13 in the same direction) for our return trip to Yongsan via the #1 northbound back to Geumjeong then the #4 northbound. On the return trip, however, we got off at the Samgakji stop which was a bit shorter of a walk onto post (and out of the now falling rain).
The Suwan Hwaseong Fortress was an interesting site to see, and we just saw part of it. According to the visitor’s map:
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, Historic Sites No. 3, was built over two years and nine months, from January 1794 to September 1796, by King Jeongjo, the 22nd king of the Joseon Dynasty, to move the tomb of his father Crown Prince Jangheon, also known as Crown Prince Sado, because of his filial duty to his father.
The wall is approximately 5.7 kilometers long (varies between 4 to 6 meters at different points) and was designed by the silhak scholars Yu, Hyeong-won and Jeong, Yak-yong. It is known as a unique structure in the history of architecture because of its use of stones and bricks together in a modern fortress structure to deflect arrows, spears, swords, guns, and cannons; its use of standardized materials; and its use of new scientific and practical mechanic apparatuses such as Geojunggi.
For 200 years, the walls and structures had been collapsing, particularly during the Korean War. The restoration and repair of the fortress began in 1975, based on books that recorded in detail the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress Construction called Hwaseong Seongyeokigwe.
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress was registered as a World Heritage Site in the 21st Assembly of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Napoli, Italy on the 6th day of December 1997.
Here are some more pictures from our trip. In some of them, it may appear as though we are having a good time, but in reality we were working…hard!