The 400-Year Family Feud That Started Over A Graveyard

In South Korea, close to the border with North Korea, lies a hill that has been at the center of a 400 year family feud between the Yoon and the Shim families.


The hill contains two graveyards that contain the remains of important people from both families. And either family wants the entire graveyard for itself.

The Beginning

General Yoon Gwan

General Yoon Gwan

Grave site-induced feuds have been a long, recurring problem among Korean families.

Koreans revere their dead, which explains why they do not want their graves to be tampered with or even trespassed in any way.

Koreans have gone to court over grave-related issues for centuries but one that the courts have been unable to settle is that between the Yoon and Shim families.

The feud was so heated that marriage between both families was forbidden.


The Graves

A close-up shot of Shim Ji-won's grave. General Yoon Gwan's grave is behind the wall.

A close-up shot of Shim Ji-won’s grave. General Yoon Gwan’s grave is behind the wall. Photo Credit: Reuters

The Yoon and Shim families of Korea were high class families in their hey days. They married their daughters to the royalty and produced several queens, generals and ministers that ruled over the Korean empire.

Yoon Gwan was a Korean general who died in 1111 AD. His body was the first to be buried on the hill but the grave was lost due to years of war and declination of the family’s powers.

In 1662 AD, the Shim family buried the remains of Shim Ji Won, who had been a Prime Minister, on the same hill, a few meters uphill from Yoon’s grave.

The Feud Begins

The tombs of Shim Ji-won and General Yoon Gwan separated by a wall.

The tombs of Shim Ji-won (left) and General Yoon Gwan (right) separated by a wall. Photo Credit: Reuters

All remained well until the 1700s when the Yoon family rediscovered the grave of their general.

They were disgusted that the Shim family had buried their Prime Minister close to their general’s grave and quickly made it clear that they were not interested in sharing the site.

They ordered the Shim family to remove the body to another location.

The Shim family refused and effectively kickstarted a rivalry that saw both families vandalize the other’s grave and engage in violent clashes that sometimes turned deadly.

They even built a high wall between the graves of the Prime Minister and the General, even though they were just few yards apart.

Both families also started burying the remains of other deceased family members on the hill in order to claim more grave estate for themselves.

In 1764, King Young Jo had had enough of the bickering and ordered that both families stopped their clashes and leave the graves as they were.

They refused and the king had the 70-year-old patriarch of each family whipped.

The patriarch of the Yoon family died during the whipping, which only deepened their rivalry.

Until 2006, both families maintained their feud that they forbade marriage between themselves. This was even though the Yoon family has over one million descendants while the Shim family has about 250,000.


The Reconciliation

The 400-Year Family Feud That Started Over A Graveyard 1

Apparently, love speaks another language as two lovebirds from both families got married and proposed a deal to end the feud. After a year of negotiations, both settled their 400-years-old feud in 2007.

Under the agreement, both families would maintain their graveyards on the hill. The Yoon family would also surrender 8,300 square meters (89,340 square feet) of land to the Shim family to expand their burial ground.

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