Hwaseong Fortress, which surrounds the historic downtown area of Suwon, was built by King Jeongjo (r. 1776-1800) of Joseon as part of his plan to move the capital from Hanyang (present-day Seoul) to Suwon and as a display of filial piety towards his father, Crown Prince Jangheon, who met with a tragic and untimely death and was buried near the city.
The construction of the fortress, which was begun in 1794 and took two years to complete, involved the use of “modern” technology and equipment introduced by such distinguished scholars as Jeong Yak-yong (1762-1836).
The fortress wall is designed to secure the summit of Paldalsan Mountain overlooking downtown Suwon, and runs along the hills around it, forming a large oval-shaped perimeter.
In the central area protected by the fortress there were a temporary royal palace and other state institutions such as the Jungposa and Naeposa Guard Houses and Sajikdan Altar, although all of the original structures have disappeared except for a palace building called Nangnamheon Hall.
Fortunately, the fortress has retained some of its original defensive features including the four main gates (Changnyongmun, Janganmun, Hwaseomun and Paldalmun), floodgates, a signal-fire stand, watchtowers and gun emplacements.
The original fortress was heavily damaged in the 150 or so years after its construction, particularly during the Korean War (1950-1953), but it was restored through a three-year project begun in 1975.
This fortress is widely regarded as a unique example in the history of fortress construction in Asia for its combination of aesthetic beauty and practicality.
In 1997, the fortress was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.