June 28, 2012

The Fortress Around Suwon

My first trip to a city in Korea not named Seoul was to the neighboring industrial outpost of Suwon, the last remaining completely walled city in the country. After taking an intracity subway to Suwon, I meandered through the underground shopping mall connected to the train terminus before emerging on the other side of the road. There was a bus stop there but the plethora of routes and directions overwhelmed me.

My eagle eyes spotted a road sign pointing towards Hwaseong Fortress, the World Heritage site whose walls ring the original city limits. I walked a bit in that direction until finding another bus stop. I caught a bus here and hastily disembarked upon spotting the impressive fortifications a handful of stops later.

Suwon is also famous for its public toilets, and as a commode aficionado I  had no choice but to visit a facility right outside the fortress. Similar to Xian, it is possible to circumnavigate the six kilometers worth of fortress walls by foot. Hwaseong Fortress was constructed by paid laborers in the late 18th century, a first in the nation's history. Prior to that, aristocrats had usually forced people of low status to provide unpaid labour.

King Jeongjo had plans to move the nation's capital to Suwon. Jeongjo's grandfather had ordered his son Sado to commit suicide. When Jeongjo's father failed to follow instructions, he was locked alive in a chest until he was no longer. Sado's tomb is located in the "The City of Filial Piety", but Jeongjo's capital plans never came to fruition.


 "Rest not! Life is sweeping by; go and dare before you die. Something mighty and sublime, leave behind to conquer time." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe