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Visiting Suwon Hwaseong Fortress from Seoul (Updated 2023)

Visiting Suwon Hwaseong Fortress from Seoul (Updated 2023)

What would you do if the heir to the throne was a serial murderer and rapist who showed no signs of stopping? Oh, and just to add in a twist, nobody – not even the king – is allowed to hurt him.

It’s exactly the conundrum that King Yeongjo of Korea faced in the middle of the 1700s.

His son, Crown Prince Sado, was his heir and due to become king at some point. But he was also clearly very mentally ill (although that’s presumably something that wasn’t properly understood at the time).

Reports from the period talk about how the crown prince, who was in his twenties at the time, was scared of things like thunder – and even clothes. The fear of getting dressed was so bad, that there were some occasions when he murdered the servants who were trying to get him dressed.

Yes, you read that right. He would just kill the person laying out his clothes for him… and nobody could stop him.

Sado would also often force himself on women in the palace and rape them and beat them (even if they didn’t resist). He even bashed one of his concubines so badly that she died, and he just left her on the floor and acted like it had never happened.

You get the idea… whatever the cause, he was not a nice person.

Visit Suwon Hwaseong Fortress from Seoul

His father, King Yeongjo, wasn’t allowed by court rules to execute his son because he was also royal. But he found a technical work-around of these laws when it all became too much in 1762.

He told his son to get inside a box and then locked it. And then he just left him there. No food, no water, no nothing.

Eight days later, Crown Prince Sado was declared dead, at the age of just 27… and nobody had technically executed him.

So, why am I telling you all of this in a story about the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress?

Well, because Hwaseong Fortress was built as a tribute to Sado by his son, Jeongjo, after he became king in 1776 (taking over from Sado’s father).

The history of Suwon's Hwaseong Fortress

Jeongjo believed his father had been wronged – that perhaps his crimes had been exaggerated and stories of his behaviour were part of a conspiracy by political opponents.

(And, it’s worth noting, that although most historians accept the accusations against Sado, there are some who still say he was unfairly killed by his rivals at the royal court.)

One of Jeongo’s missions as king was to restore the reputation of his father Sado, and building this enormous fortress around his grave at Suwon was part of that campaign.

Why is Suwon Hwaseong Fortress important?

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress has been…

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