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.
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.
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.
The city is divided into 4 gu (districts):
|Romanization||Hangul||Hanja||Pop. (2008)||Area (m²)|
|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 Ajou University, Sungkyunkwan University's Natural Science Campus, Kyonggi 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.
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.
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.
Woncheon in the Yeongtong-gu district also has two amusement parks, Woncheon Greenland and Woncheon Lakeland.
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.
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 a 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.