The Pasture Supervisor Kim Family

The Gyeongju clan Kim family of Jeju are famous for having many members of the family over the generations serve as military officers in charge of matters related to the king’s pastures and the payment of horses as tribute. So the family is commonly called the Pasture Supervisor Kim Family. The first of these Kims to become such a pasture supervisor lived during the Joseon Dynasty under the reign of King Seon-Jo. His descendants did not just inherit the position of pasture supervisor; many of them took on other roles in the government, and the family became very wealthy and influential. It is said that the reason the family became so prosperous was the propitious gravesite of one of their ancestors. His grave is located at a place called Bandegi in front of Min Oreum. The gravesite is said to have been chosen by the governor of Jeju, and the story goes like this.

At that time, the Kim family lived in Otgwi Village, and since many of them were government officials, the family had a good reputation. The governor would often take along members of the Kim family when he made his official inspection tours. At one point, there was a death in the Kim family, so the talented governor decided to find a place for the burial. He went out with one of the mourners to find a proper gravesite. After a few days of crisscrossing fields, the governor discovered a site with particularly auspicious vital energy at Bandegi in front of Min Oreum. The governor unfolded his geomancy diagram of the island’s geography and compared the area to the features shown on it. He said there was no doubt that this was one of the island’s seven great centers of vital energy. 

After studying the diagram carefully for a while, the governor managed to pinpoint the precise spot where the area’s vital energy converged. He brought the mourner over and made him stand there, saying “I’m going to go up over there. I’ll return shortly.” He urged the man to “Stand right here while pushing down with your feet as hard as possible, and no matter what happens, do not lift your feet off the ground.” The mourner put all his energy into his feet and planted them firmly on the ground. Then a strange thing happened. After the governor had climbed up to his destination and was gradually walking back closer towards him, he started to feel an itching sensation on the soles of his feet. Nonetheless, he endured the itching and firmly put his strength into his feet. As the governor gradually drew closer, the itchy feeling got stronger and stronger. Eventually it became so intense that his feet began to shake uncontrollably, until no matter how hard he focused on pressing down, he simply could not take it anymore. Once the governor had come within arm’s reach, the itching was so unbearable that he lifted his feet up off the ground.  

At just that instant, a pair of doves came flying out of the ground at the very spot where he had been standing. As the governor was walking back, he had been stirring up a dragon’s energy. As he came back down and stirred up the energy of the dragon at each of its focus points, he had been solidifying the energy at the strongest point of energy convergence, intending to bury the body there and pile up a burial mound above it. The more the dragon’s energy solidified at the precise center of vital energy, the stronger the spot vibrated. That is where the itching sensation in the mourner’s feet came from. The doves that flew out at the instant the mourner lifted his feet were the embodiment of the dragon’s energy.

The governor spoke, partly to scold the mourner and partly to lament what had happened. “You couldn’t bear a little bit of itching and just had to lift your feet, did you? Well, in a hundred years the energy will return to its original site. The good fortune to be obtained from this place will come a little late, but you should still go ahead and dig the grave.” The man did as the governor said and buried the body there. After almost a hundred years had passed, one of the Kim family’s descendants got married. His wife came from a wealthy family that owned hundreds of horses, but rather than getting a house or field from them, he just got one stallion. One day, after the man took the horse to a pasture and left it to feed, it disappeared. The following day, he packed a lunch, intending to go look for the horse, but much to his surprise it was back in the pasture, along with around one hundred mares it had led there. Upon closer inspection, the man saw that all those horses belonged to his wife’s family.  

The son-in-law contacted his wife’s family right away and drove all the horses back to their home. But a few days later, his stallion disappeared again. Then it came back with every last one of the mares. So the man drove them back to his in-laws again, only to have the stallion bring them all back once more. He drove the mares home, and again they were brought back. This happened dozens of times, until the man’s in-laws decided that there was nothing they could do about it since there was no use in trying to get the horses to stay. They told the man that he could just keep them all. In this way, the Kim family suddenly became the wealthy owners of a large number of horses.

The horses gave birth, and then their offspring gave birth, and after a few years there were a few hundred of them. The horses kept multiplying, and eventually Mr. Kim presented an offering of five hundred of them to the government, which soon conferred upon him the title of ‘Meritorious Subject through the Contribution of Horses’ and made him the military officer in charge of the king’s pastures and livestock in Jeju. After that, not only did Mr. Kim take good care of the government horses by ordering herders to watch over them at Gammae Pasture and Noksan Pasture, but each year the Kims offered up gifts of horses to the king, so his descendants continued to inherit the position of pasture supervisor.

As recounted on March 2, 1975, by Mr. Gim Gi-Ok (70) of Taeheung-ri.

From 99 Legends of Jeju Island, a compilation based on accounts compiled by Hyun Yong-Joon.

Bandegi : 반데기

Gammae Pasture : Gammaejang : 감매장   


   Geomancy, better known as feng shui, or pungsu in Korea (풍수: 風水: wind-water), is the art of situating manmade structures in locations that have strong, positive, vital energy, called gi (기: 氣). The energy is thought to flow through the landscape, and the areas where the energy is strongest are the most auspicious. Geomancers, called jigwan (지관: 地官), or jeongsi (정시) in the dialect of Jeju, are proficient in finding suitable places to build graves, homes and other structures, and are often imbued with magical abilities.


   During the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties, the term mok (목: 牧) was used for an administrative district that included a large town, but it was also used to refer to the town itself. The largest town on the island was called Jeju Mok (Jejumok: 제주목: 濟州牧), and is the site of present day Jeju City. The chief administrator of a mok was called a moksa (목사: 牧使), here translated as governor.

Gyeongju clan

   There are less than 300 surnames in use in Korea, with Gim, Yi, and Bak (more commonly spelled Kim, Lee and Park) making up about half the population. Surnames are divided into different clans, according to the birthplace of their first known ancestor. In this case, the Kim family’s ancestors were from Gyeongju, in North Gyeongsang Province.  

King Seon-Jo (선조: 宣祖) reigned from 1567 to 1608.

Min Oreum : 민오름

   Oreum (오름) is the word in the dialect of Jeju used to designate the volcanic cones that dot the island. This volcanic cone is also known as Minak Mountain (Minaksan : 민악산 : 民岳山).

Noksan Pasture : Noksanjang : 녹산장

Otgwi Village : 옷귀리

   This is the present-day village of Uigwi (Uigwi-ri : 의귀리 : 衣貴里).

Pasture supervisors

   The type of military officer that members of the family became was a gammokgwan (감목관: 監牧官). During the Joseon Dynasty, a gammokgwan was in charge of matters related to the care of the king’s livestock and pastures in different regions of the country. Many pastures in Jeju were used for raising horses and cattle for the king.

Seven great centers of vital energy

   These are called the Childaehyeol (칠대혈: 七大穴). There is some disagreement as to the list, which includes Sara = 사라, Eoseuseung = 어스승, Yeongsil = 영실, Banhwa = 반화, Gusengi = 구셍이, Bandegi = 반데기, Hanun = 한운 and Gaemimok = 개미목.

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