Soldiers participate in royal reenactment in Suwon
Soldiers of 6-52nd ADA Battalion dress as Joseon-era Royal Guards and protect King Jeonjo (center) as he exits the Suwon Hangung Palace during a reenactment of a royal procession at Suwon Hwaseong Fortress March 27.

SUWON, South Korea - Soldiers from the 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery, along with members of the Republic of Korea Army 700th Special Operation Force, participated in the historical reenactment of a Joseon-era royal procession during the Hwaseong Fortress Spring Opening Ceremony here March 27.

To the steady beat of war drums, the Soldiers donned Joseon-era ceremonial attire and weapons and accompanied the Joseon King Jeonjo as he entered the Hwaseong Fortress Main Citadel to greet a crowd of thousands.

More than 450 ROK and U.S. Soldiers participated in the parade as King Jeonjo's loyal military guards, traveling from the main citadel to the Hwaseong Hangung (Summer Palace) where the King and Queen Mother resided.

A similar royal procession took place here over 200 years ago during the original opening ceremony for the Hwaseong Fortress.

"As we were marching in our traditional armor, surrounded by historical buildings and ancient music, I almost felt as if we have been transported back in time," said Pfc. Diante Pullum, assigned to headquarters battery, 6-52 Air Defense Artillery Battalion.

The Mississippi native continued, "It was a surreal experience and a tremendous honor to be able to wear the uniform of the King's Royal Guards ... back in those days, only the best and brightest can stand so close to the king."

Hwaseong Fortress was built by King Jeonjo in 1796. The fortress consisted of four imposing citadels, a more than three-and-a-half-mile-long perimeter wall, various gun towers and turrets and a beautiful summer palace at its center.

At the time of its construction, Hwaseong Fortress was considered one of the most advanced defensive structures in Asia.

As a testament to its historical importance, UNESCO designated the Hwaseong Fortress as a World Heritage Site in 1997. Since then, the annual parade has become the crown jewel of Suwon City, attracting tens of thousands of tourists each year.

"We have always invited real Soldiers to don the uniforms of the Joseon warriors during these parades to lend an aura of authenticity," said Kwak Suh-keung, the chief producer of the parade and a history advisor. "After all, only they [the Soldiers] can know the true meaning of selfless service as the Joseon Royal Guards would have."

The Hwaseong parade is known for its strict adherence to historical accuracy. From the wardrobes and instruments to the position of the marchers, every detail has been faithfully recreated based on historical archives and paintings.

But what thousands of spectators found even more interesting than King Jeonjo himself is the sight of westerners in traditional Joseon-era attire.

Kwak went on, "Recently, we have also invited U.S. Soldiers to participate in these parades ... we want to announce to the world that the city of Suwon is embracing all those who are fighting for its freedom and protecting its citizens."

The Iron Horse Battalion has been a regular participant of the Hwaseong Parade since 2009.

"The crowd this afternoon is simply amazing," said Spc. Wade Myers, a participant of the parade from Headquarters Battery, 6-52nd Air Defense Artillery Battalion.

The local spectators, curious at the sight of the westerners, cheered on the U.S. Soldiers as they marched by. Most stood in the distance and waved while some approached the marchers and expressed their personal gratitude with handshakes.

Myers said, "Above the fun and colorful reenactment, I truly enjoyed the interaction with the local nationals ... I really feel like we are making a direct impact in these nice folks lives this afternoon."

Page last updated Thu March 31st, 2011 at 00:24