Located 30 kilometers south of Seoul, Suwon is the largest metropolis of Gyeonggi Province.
Besides being home to a World Heritage site and some 1.1 million residents, it is also known as the “city of filial piety.”
King Jeongjo, who reigned during the Joseon Dynasty from 1777 to 1800 as the 22nd king, wanted to build a “utopian city” to remember his ill-fated father Prince Sado –- who was victimized in faction struggles in 1762 -- by constructing a fortress around his father’s tomb at Haenggung Palace.
Built at a height of 5 to 8 meters height and 5,744 meters in circumference, the site was designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997.
According to Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young, along with its scientific and dedicated construction, Hwaseong Fortress goes beyond just being a military facility.
Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young (Suwon City)
“Although it was mainly built to protect the southern part of the palace, Hwaseong Fortress itself functioned as the main gate for residents and the marketplace where business among merchants prospered,” said Yeom.
“Hwaseong Fortress, in fact, has a very scientific architecture,” he added.
Designed and built by architect Jeong Yak-yong, who later become a renowned leader of the Silhak movement, the fortress was built in 1794 and was completed in 1796. Jeong incorporated traditional Korean designs with China’s contemporary building plans.
“He constructed the wall with bricks by making use of pulleys and cranes, with a very accurate and developed building method, Hwaseong Fortress’ walls remain as intact as it was constructed over 200 years ago,” said Yeom.
In order to spread awareness of the beauty of the fortress as well as the story behind historical figures such as Jeong Yak-yong and King Jeongjo, Suwon aims to enhance its reputation as a city of heritage and cultural tourism.
To celebrate the 220th year since the fortress was completed, Suwon City has designated this year as the “Year of visiting Suwon.” The city has prepared a slew of cultural programs and festivals for local and foreign visitors.
“We always thought the real beauty of Suwon has not been fully shown to visitors. I hope more visitors come to Suwon and enjoy every corner of the city. Also, it will be a good opportunity for foreign visitors to learn about Korea’s heritage site,” said Yeom.
As part of the lineup of events, the famous Suwon Theatre Festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary with the likes of the Spanish performance Grupo Puja and the French play “Passage.”
One of the most representative entertainment shows in town is the martial art performance by the city’s “Muyea 24” team, which puts up a show daily at 11 a.m. in front of the Hwaseong Haenggung’s main gate.
But the “real beauty” of Hwaseong Fortress unfolds at night, according to Yeom.
“Imagine when the lights installed on the top of 5.7 kilometers of fortress wall are turned on at night,” said Yeom.
“When we saw the shining fortress wall at night, it felt like all our efforts paid off after 20 years of installing it, just to show the nice night view of Hwaseong Fortress.”
When the sun goes down, Suwon also turns into a city of food streets and traditional markets, including the popular Paldalmun Market, Jidong Market, Motgol Market and Youngdong Market, to name a few.
One of the popular cuisines in Suwon is Wang Galbi, soy sauce marinated beef ribs, as well as crispy fried whole-chicken, which is cooked in a huge traditional iron pot.
Another famous item in Suwon is Sundae, or Korean-style blood sausage, made with noodle, assorted vegetables and a spicy sauce.
“I want to invite all to Suwon for this year’s party. I hope many can come and witness how the city evolved from a heritage city to one of festive vibe,” said Yeom.
“We will show everything we have got and that we have prepared, right from maintaining the old fortress walls from decades ago to the current state of the local markets,” he added.
By Kim Da-sol and Park (email@example.com