Monday, December 17, 2018

Haenyeo in action in the shadow of Seongsan Illchulbong (Photo-essay)

When we were planning our Jeju get-together, one of our party mentioned her wish to see haenyeo in action.  I have to be honest here: until she mentioned it, I had no idea that these women divers, whose culture and way of earning a living was inscribed in 2016 on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list, even existed! 

As luck would have it, a group of haenyeo have taken to performing twice daily in a cove right in the shadow Seongsan Illchulbong.  So after our Sangumburi excursion, we headed over there -- to a place whose scenery and geology proved to be quite the draw for me along with the remarkable women whose diving tradition dates back to the 5th century AD and involves their learning how to hold their breath for more than three minutes at a time so that they don't require breathing apparatus when going about gathering seafood underwater...

Early morning view of the haenyeo dive spot
 The afternoon sun turned the water as well as sky a brighter blue
Down in the cove, one finds a volcanic rock surface 
-- with lots of rock pools -- rather than sandy beach
Boats used by tourists rather than haenyeo

The haenyeo wade straight into the water (after offering prayers 
at the waters edge to the goddess of the sea)
  An outlooker got so excited he joined the haenyeo in the water!
The water was on the shallow side in the cove but still yielded a catch!
 Along with octopi, there also was sea urchin -- which I can 
well imagine is best handled with gloved rather than ungloved hands :b


Bill said...


You're really doing a bang-up job on Jeju! I like the link you provide to Jeju Weekly. There must be a strong matriarchal bond between these stalwart women of the sea, especially in contrast to the more patriarchal mainland Korea. In a sense, one could almost think of Jeju as a woman's island.


YTSL said...

Hi Bill --

I'm glad you're enjoying my Jeju posts. Don't want to rush them as I really did enjoy my first and thus far only trip to that island and want to provide good coverage of it!