The Senior Diplomacy Group of the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Korea Observer put together their second trip which took place June 13,2015. Despite MERS, the show continued with about 30 bloggers, photographers, journalist, writers, and filmmakers.
We met in Itaewon, boarded a bus were given snacks and a gift; a face mask. The bus ride over was made short by conversation. The guy beside me, David Mason, came to Korea in 1986, before there was much literature about Korea in any language other than Korean. He now teaches history, religion and philosophy here and has put out several books about Korea.
Ji and I visited Hwaseong Fortress back around January but only managed to stay out for an hour due to cold and windy conditions. This time it was much more enjoyable. Along the tour we stopped Periodically for eplanations. Usually during those stops I broke away from the group to search for a place to hide my letterbox., which in teh end proved unsuccessful. During one of the stops I did stay and heard about how king Yeongjo ordered his son, Prince Sado, to climb into a rice chest and locked him in for a week with no food or water, leading to his eventual death by suffocation. Why? some say he was mentally ill, others say he was instigating revolt and needed to be killed.
Apart from that, one of the things I found most interesting about the fortress is its design. It takes over two hours to walk the entire 5.5km circumference of the site. The son of Prince Sado, King Jeongjo, orderd the construction of Hwaseong Fortress to honor his father. The choice of design for the 18 towers along the fortress wall were left to a competition style selection process. 18 designs were submitted but instead of choosing one designer, the king loved them all and agreed to build one of each.
We got caught in the rain and spent 20 minutes inside a pavilion, overlooking a pond near the Suwoncheon, something we didn’t see on our first trip to Hwaseong. The inside of the pavilion was a great layout for a tiny-house. The size was perfect and there were no walls so it was light filled. I could imagine living in such a structure, especially if the view was comparable.
We moved on to the archery range and were each given a bow and 10 arrows. A woman gave us rudimentary instructions and we were turned loose. It has been two years nearly, since Peru, when I tried the long bow in the Amazon community of Palma Real. My first arrow soared a foot or two above and to the right of the target. Traditional Korean bows are short and seem under-powered, though I am sure they would do significant damage especially if you had 100 archers each launching several arrows simultaneously.
Tournament archers in Korea train at 145 meters from the target, twice the distance of most competition settings. We watched a guy who looked to know what he was doing. The arrows arced slowly through the air; seconds later it pierced the target. We finished our remaining arrows and then walked out to retrieve them. I would have loved to have stayed and shot arrows all afternoon, it was my favorite part of the trip