Suwon history goes far beyond Korean War

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Suwon’s Hwaseong Fortress. – Courtesy photo
Suwon’s Hwaseong Fortress. – Courtesy photo

Suwon history goes far beyond Korean War

by: Robert R. Frace | .
Suwon Recreation Center | .
published: June 22, 2013

SUWON AIR BASE – In ancient tribal times, Suwon was known as Mosu-guk and during the Three Kingdoms era, the area comprising modern Suwon and Hwaseong City was called Maehol-gun.

In 757, under King Gyeongdeok, of the Unified Silla, the name was changed to Suseong-gun. In 940, during the Goryeo Dynasty, the name was changed again, to Sutu. King Taejong of the Joseon Dynasty renamed the city to Suwon in 1413.

In 1592, during the Imjin Wars, Commander Yi Kwang attempted to launch his army toward the capital city of 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 The army was withdrawn, however, after news that the city had already been sacked reached the commander.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, Kwang and the irregular commanders reconsidered their aim to reclaim the capital and led the combined forces north to Suwon.

In 1950, the Korean War greatly affected Suwon, as the city changed hands four times. Very shortly after the outbreak of war, the 49th Fighter Wing of the U.S. Air Force was dispatched to Korea from Japan.

Its first task was to evacuate civilians from Suwon and Gimpo, but Suwon soon fell to the advancing North Koreans.

Shortly before the Battle of Osan, Task Force Smith the first conflict between United States and North Korean forces, on July 4, 1950, defenses were erected on the road between Suwon and nearby Osan (then still under Southern command). The next day, Northern troops advanced south. In the three and a half 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 U.S. 1st Cavalry Division. From Nov. 6, 1951, the United States Air Force’s top fighter pilot, Col. Francis S. “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.

Today, Suwon City has been transformed into a city of dynamic business, cultural and educational activities.

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