The Ami-dong Tombstone Culture Village is across the road from Gamcheon Culture Village.
It is one of the mountainous villages that grew busy because of the increasing visitors during the mountainside road renaissance.
During the Korean War, refugees embarked on a journey with nothing but basic household items. The civic officers handed out a small note to refugees who congregated to Busan Station that contained the following short address.
“San 19-beonji, Ami-dong.” This was the beginning of the Ami-dong Tombstone Culture Village where they will make their home.
The Ami-dong mountainous area, a former Japanese cemetery, was abandoned after liberation and gradually transformed into a residential area when refugees settled in Busan. In a time when construction materials were sparse, people built houses with planks, gravestones, and stone ornaments placed over graves. A house on top of a grave! Now, this is unimaginable, but it did not matter when there was no space even to lay comfortably. Anything with a pillar to block the wind was better than the battlefield. Rituals were performed for the retrieved bones, and they were even stored at a nearby temple to pay respects to the dead.
Tombstones used by the refugees are incorporated into random staircases and walls in Ami-dong. Angular stone ornaments and gravestones were utilized as stairs and stepping stones as well as cornerstones and breast walls for houses. Gravestones containing the traditional arms of Japanese families are easily found between the lower walls.
Houses containing gravestones, traces of history, found in each alley elicit a painful sensation that makes visitors humble. Alley mural paintings encountered in the search for gravestones bring back childhood memories, and the unhindered view of the alley makes visitors stop for a moment and rest. This is a village where the dead and living coexist.
The past connects to the present, and the present remembers the past. This is the road where people walked on with bundles on their backs following the refugee trail to the south. On the road are traces of life’s hardships in Tombstone Culture Village, and today, we walk on that path once again. What life is not precious? Each life lived to the fullest is full of wonders, mysteries, and beauty.
A quiet walk in Ami-dong Tombstone Culture Village will feel like an encounter with Busan’s hidden history. The Tombstone Culture Village gives a special inspiration, unlike a trip to the original downtown of Busan.