This is a Tombstone Village, Built by Korean Refugees in a Japanese Cemetery


At first glance, Ami-dong looks like an ordinary village in Busan City, South Korea. The houses are colorful with narrow alleys facing the mountains.

But if you look closely, you may see unusual building materials embedded in the foundations of houses, walls, and steep stairs, there are tombstones inscribed with Japanese characters.

Ami-dong, also called the Tombstone Cultural Village, was built during the Korean War, which broke out in 1950 after North Korea invaded the South.

The conflict displaced large numbers of people on the Korean Peninsula. There are more than 640,000 North Koreans crossing the “38th parallel” that divides the two countries, according to some estimates.

In South Korea, many citizens have also fled to the south of the country, away from Seoul and the front lines.

Busan Ami-dong Village (Photo: CNN)

Many of these refugees headed for Busan, on South Korea’s southeast coast, one of two cities North Korea never took during the war. Others to Daegu which is 88 kilometers away.

Busan became the temporary capital in times of war, with UN forces establishing a perimeter around the city. The security side made it a huge refugee city and the last bastion of national power.

But the refugees have a problem, finding a place to live. Space and resources are scarce in Busan.

BusanBusan (Photo: iStock)

Some find the answer in Ami-dong, a crematorium and cemetery located at the foot of the Busan mountains. The area was built during the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945.

The period of Japanese colonial rule, the existence of sex slaves in brothels during wartime is one of the main historical factors behind the bitter relations between the two countries to this day.

It was during this time that the livable plains of Busan and the downtown area by the sea port were developed as Japanese territory, according to an article in the city government’s official visitor guide.

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