Feuding clans

There is a fascinating article in today’s International Herald Tribune on Korean family grave sites, feng shui and the long-running feud between the Yoon and Shim clans. Recommended reading with an interesting twist in the tale for people who are interested in the whole issue of what constitutes history, tradition, heritage etc and what preserving these things actually means. Here’s a taster:

In ancient Korea, grave site disputes were the most common cause of lawsuits. Among those disputes, the Shim- Yoon quarrel is the most famous unresolved case, partly because it involved families that each produced several queens and numerous ministers at the royal court.

Yoon Gwan, who expanded Korea’s northern territories, died in 1111 and was buried in this hill. But the tomb was lost as continuous wars ravaged the country and his family’s power declined. When Shim Ji Won, the prime minister, died in 1662, his family buried him in the same hill.

The feud erupted in the mid-18th century when the Yoon clan, with its influence on the rise again, rediscovered the general’s grave – as it turned out, only meters downhill from Shim’s.

Petitions and clashes followed. King Young Jo presided over a hearing in 1764 and ordered the clans to respect the two graves as they were. But the families continued to bicker, vandalizing each other’s tombs, and the irate king punished the 70-year-old patriarchs of the rival factions by flogging and exiling them. One of them, a Yoon, died from the effects of the beating. Animosity only deepened.

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