Suwon (Suwon-si) is the provincial capital of Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. A city of over a million inhabitants, Suwon lies approximately 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Seoul and is one of the most populous of Seoul's satellite cities. It is traditionally known as "The City of Filial Piety".
Suwon has existed in various forms throughout Korea's history, growing from a small settlement in tribal times to a major industrial and cultural city today. Suwon is the only remaining completely walled city in South Korea. As such, the city walls are one of the more popular tourist destinations in Gyeonggi Province. As an industrial centre, Suwon houses a large Samsung Electronics factory. Suwon is served by two motorways, the national railway network and the Seoul Metropolitan Subway, facilitating transport of commuters, tourists and goods alike.
Suwon is a major educational centre, being home to 14 university campuses. This, along with widespread transport links, draws inhabitants from across the country and foreign population of 1.85%.
In 757, under King Gyeongdeok of the Unified Silla, the name was changed to Suseong-gun (수성군). In 940, during the Goryeo Dynasty, the name was changed again in to Suju (수주). King Taejong of the Joseon Dynasty renamed the city to Suwon in 1413"Welcome to Suwon city". Suwon City Council. http://eng.suwon.ne.kr/sub_frame.asp?page_id=sub_02_03_02&root_id=sub_main2&parent_id=sub_02_03. Retrieved on 2007-11-27.
In 1592, during the Japanese invasions of Korea, Commander Yi Kwang, attempted to check the Japanese progress by launching his army toward the capital city, Seoul (at the time called Hanseong). The army was withdrawn, however, after news that the city had already been sacked reached the commander As the army grew in size to 50,000 men with the accumulation of several volunteer forces, Yi Kwang and the irregular commanders reconsidered their aim to reclaim the capital, and led the combined forces north to Suwon.
Construction of Hwaseong
Later during the Joseon Dynasty, King Jeongjo made an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to make Suwon the nation's capital in 1796. Part of this project was the construction of Hwaseong Fortress, a fortified wall running around the entire city partially intended to guard the tomb of his father, Prince Sado, which he had located there.
The walls were one of Korea's first examples of paid labour, (corvée labour being common previously). The walls still exist today, though they, together with the fortress, were damaged severely during the Korean War.
Hwaseong was originally constructed under the guidance of philosopher Jeong Yag-yong. In 1800, shortly after the death of King Jeongjo, a white paper detailing the construction of the fortress was published. This proved invaluable during its reconstruction in the 1970s.
The fortress walls once encircled the entire city, but modern urban growth has seen the city spread out far beyond the fortress. The walls are now a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. and often used in materials promoting the city.
The Korean War affected Suwon hugely, as the city changed hands four times. Very shortly after the outbreak of war, the 49th Fighter Wing of the United States Air Force was dispatched to Korea from Japan and its first task was to evacuate civilians from Suwon and Gimpo. Suwon soon fell to the advancing North Koreans and, shortly before the Battle of Osan, the first conflict between United States and North Korean forces, on July 4, 1950, defences were erected on the road between Suwon and nearby Osan (then still under Southern command). The next day, Northern troops advanced south. In the 3½-hour battle which followed, 150 American and 42 North Korean soldiers were killed and the United States troops were forced to retreat. The North Korean advance southwards to take Osan was delayed by an estimated seven hours. On December 16, 1950, the Greek Expeditionary Force relocated to Suwon, attached to the US 1st Cavalry Division. From November 6, 1951, the United States Air Force's top fighter pilot Gabby Gabreski was in charge of K-13 Air Base in Suwon. By the end of the war, Suwon was in South Korea. A memorial to the French military stands in Jangan-gu, near the Yeongdong Expressway's North Suwon exit.
Suwon lies in the north of the Gyeonggi plain, just south of South Korea's capital, Seoul. It is bordered by Uiwang to the north-west, Yongin to the east, the city of Hwaseong to the south-west, and also shares a short border with Ansan to the west.
Most of the streams passing through Suwon originate on Gwanggyosan or other nearby peaks. Since Suwon is bounded to the east by other hills, the streams, chiefly the Suwoncheon (and one notable tributary being the Jungbocheon), flow southwards through the city, eventually emptying into the Yellow Sea at Asan Bay. The entirety of Suwon is drained in this manner.
As is true of all the South Korean mainland, there are no natural lakes in Suwon. There are, however, many small reservoirs, namely Seoho (서호) near Hwaseo Station, Ilwon Reservoir (일원 저수지) near Sungkyunkwan University, Bambat Reservoir (밤밭 저수지) near Sungkyunkwan University Station, Ilwang Reservoir (일왕 저수지) in Manseok Park, Pajang Reservoir (파장 저수지) near the North Suwon exit of the Yeongdong Expressway, Gwanggyo Reservoir (광교 저수지) at the foot of Gwanggyosan, Woncheon and Sindae Reservoirs (원천 저수지 & 신대 저수지) near Ajou University 아주대학교, and Geumgok Reservoir (금곡 저수지), a small reservoir at the foot of Chilbosan.
Suwon's climate is very similar to that of Seoul. However, because of Seoul's significant urban heat, Suwon is usually slightly cooler than Seoul.
The city is divided into 4 gu (districts):
|Romanization||Hangul||Hanja||Pop. (2008)||Area (m²)|
50.2% of the population in Suwon is composed of male residents. Indeed, it is only in Paldal-gu that the number of female residents is greater than that of males. 1.85% of the population is of foreign nationality, the highest concentration (2.3%) being in Paldal-gu. Further information regarding the residents of each district is shown below.
|Total people||Korean males||Korean females||Korean (total)||Foreign males||Foreign females||Foreign (total)|
Overall, the population of Suwon is increasing, but the domestic population is falling. For example, the Korean population of Suwon fell by 585 from December 2007 to January 2008. However, both genders of the foreign population increased in number in each gu in the same time period. It appears to be a pattern that the foreign population is increasing, as Suwon also saw a 13% increase in the number of registered foreigners residing in the city in the first half of 2007. The only gu currently showing an increase in population is Gwonseon-gu (though the same was until recently true of Paldal-gu), while all others have falling number of residents, especially Jangan-gu and Yeongtong-gu.
There are 14 universities in Suwon and 2 colleges, and these include Sungkyunkwan University's Medical & Technical Campus,Kyonggi University, Ajou University, Kyunghee University, Suwon Catholic University, Dongnam Health College, Gukje Digital University, Hapdong Theological Seminary, Jangan College, Suwon Science College and Suwon Women's College. The University of Suwon is not actually in Suwon, but in the neighbouring city of Hwaseong. The agricultural campus of Seoul National University was located in Suwon until 2005, but is now in Gwanak-gu, Seoul.
There are also 2 junior colleges, 33 high schools, 37 middle schools, 81 primary schools and 107 kindergartens in Suwon.
Suwon has three schools devoted to special education, namely the Jahye Institute, the School of Suwon Seokwang and Dream Tree Special School, and also has wings of mainstream schools for students requiring special education, being the Special Education School of Suwonbuk Middle School, the Special Education School of Suwon Girls' Middle School.
As in most Korean cities, there is an abundance of small private schools offering education in a wide variety of subjects.
The main industrial employer in Suwon is Samsung. In fact, Samsung began in Seoul in 1938, but at the beginning of the Korean War, inventories were so damaged that the founder, Lee Byeongcheol (이병철) was forced to start business again in 1951, this time in Suwon. Though Samsung Electronics was founded in Daegu in 1969, it now has its headquarters and a large factory complex in central Suwon and is the largest employer in the city.
Hwaseong Fortress is Suwon's most notable attraction. Built in 1796, the entire city used to be encircled by the walls, but now Suwon has expanded beyond this boundary. Hwaseong is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Haenggung Palace, within Hwaseong, is another noteworthy historical attraction. On completion of the Bundang Line extension, Suwon will also be only a few stops from Singal, the location of the Korean Folk Village, and the Everland theme park is nearby in Yongin.
The path around the walls of Hwaseong Fortress is popular with locals and tourists for sightseeing and keeping fit. Manseok Park in northern Suwon has a 1200m track around a lake and is often crowded with walkers, cyclists and roller-bladers. Other facilities at Manseok Park include tennis (indoor & outdoor), soccer (dirt and artificial turf) and the Suwon X-Games skatepark. Various other parks are dotted around Suwon and several ski resorts and hiking trails are within easy reach of the city.
Suwon has several sports facilities, including an archery field, badminton courts, ten-pin bowling lanes, indoor swimming pools, tennis courts, soft tennis courts and football (soccer)pitches.
Suwon is home to the Suwon Big Bird Stadium, a venue during the 2002 FIFA World Cup and home to K-League team Suwon Samsung Bluewings. Suwon also has a team in the Super Sunday Football League. The city is often called the 'Football Capital' of Korea by local fans.
Suwon has three major multiplex theaters: Megabox and CGV theaters in the Suwon Station complex in the city center, as well as Kinex 5 in the district of Yeongtong-gu. There are also other theaters that show fewer foreign films: Cinema Town, Taehan Theater, Piccadilly Theater, Jungang Theater, Royal Theater, Dano Theater and Dano Art Hall.
Woncheon in the Yeongtong-gu district also has two amusement parks, Woncheon Greenland and Woncheon Lakeland.
Suwon City Council prides itself on the condition of its public lavatories. It has made efforts in recent years to make new lavatories clean and to improve existing facilities using Japan as a model, and now offers visitors guided bus tours of the municipal restrooms.
Suwon is a regional transportation hub and Suwon Station is an important stop on the Gyeongbu railway line between Seoul and Busan. There is a bus service to the KTX high-speed train station at Gwangmyeong. Suwon is connected to Seoul and other nearby cities by city and express buses with departure points across the city. There are also two bus terminals in Suwon with inter-city and express bus connections to most cities in Korea. These are Suwon Bus Terminal and West Suwon Bus Terminal, which is located near Sungkyunkwan University.
Suwon has several stations on Seoul Subway Line 1, which runs North-South through the city, namely Sungkyunkwan University, Hwaseo, Suwon and Seryu. An extension of the Bundang Line to cross Suwon East-West, terminating at Suwon, is under construction, as is a further line connecting Suwon Station to Incheon. Until 1973, the Suryo Line also connected Suwon to Yeoju.
The Yeongdong Expressway (Number 50) passes through Suwon and two exits on this motorway lie within the city limits, being North Suwon and East Suwon. Suwon is also served by the Suwon exit of the Gyeongbu Expressway (Number 1), though this lies a short distance east of the Suwon's limits, near Singal in the city of Yongin. As with most Korean cities, taxis are plentiful.
Crude oil for fuel is provided by the Trans Korea Pipeline, which runs through the city.
There are two newspapers based in Suwon. These are the Gyeonggi Daily (경기일보) and, since 1960, the Gyeongin Daily (경인일보). The former is based in Jangan-gu, with the latter's offices being in Paldal-gu. Neither offers news in foreign languages.
The Air Force has a base in Suwon. This was used by the United States Air Force during the Korean War, though the nearest U.S. air base is Osan, in Songtan, Pyeongtaek. The base is now occupied mostly by the ROKAF (Republic of Korea Air Force), though the US Army houses half of a battalion there presently, and there are a limited number of US Air Force personnel.
- See also: Religion in South Korea
As in most of South Korea, according to 2006 statistics compiled by the government, about 25.3% of the population profess to follow no particular religion. Christians account for 20% of the population and Buddhists 52%. The Catholic Diocese of Suwon was created in 1963 by Pope Paul VI. The diocese was a part of the Archdiocese of Seoul prior to the establishment of the see. The current bishop is Choi Deok-ki (최덕기).
Suwon is famous for Suwon galbi, a variation on the style beef short rib enjoyed throughout Korea. The city also has the same variety of Korean dishes served throughout the peninsula and has a wide variety of restaurants serving food from outside Korea.
Groceries are widely available, both in small independent grocers' shops and in larger stores such as HomePlus, of which Suwon has three branches, E-mart and Lotte Mart. Most of these larger stores incorporate a food court in which can be found a variety of dishes.
There is also a variety of foreign restaurants in the city. These include T.G.I. Friday's, Bennigan's, Outback Steakhouse and VIPS, serving steak among other dishes. To cater to the desires of the numerous Indian employees of Samsung Electronics, there are a few Indian guesthouses and restaurants in the nearby area. There are also vegetarian restaurants in the city.
Flora and Fauna
Suwon's wildlife is similar to that of most of Gyeonggi-do. A notable species, however, is the Suwon tree frog. This is one of only two tree frogs to inhabit the Korean peninsula and lives in the Gyeonggi-do area only.
Famous people from Suwon include:
- Manchester United footballer Park Ji-Sung, after whom a street in the city was named in 2005. *Footballer Kim Jin-Woo
- Pastor Billy Kim, Former President of the Baptist World Alliance and current President of the Far East Broadcasting Company
- Cellist Han-na Chang
- Actress Hyun Young
- Actress Ha Ji-won
- Presenter and columnist Sam Oh
Some material adapted from the Wikipedia articles on South Korea from http://www.wikipedia.org/ used under the GNU Free Documentation License along with photos from Wikimedia commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
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