Photos from Korea

11 08 2008
Mermaids of Jeju Island, South Korea 


Mermaids of Jeju Island, South Korea


After 10 hours of sorting and uploading, the bulk of my photos from my trip to Seoul are up on my smugmug page. I didn’t have time to edit much or add a lot of description, but you can get a view of our experience. The coolest photos, in my opinion, are the ones I snatched of the women who dive for fish and shellfish without scuba equipment. They are known as Haenyeo or Mermaids of Jeju. They train themselves to dive up to 20 meters below the surface without the use of any breathing apparatus. 

Sadly, they are an aging lot. I believe the average age of the remaining Haenyeo is 60+ years. Not enough young women are interested in taking up the dangerous profession. It takes guts to fend off sharks and subject your body to such demanding activity. 

The ladies I encountered on the way back to my hotel were a lively wizened crew. They chatted spiritedly among themselves as a photographer was setting up his gear. Although I couldn’t understand the language, I could tell they are a closely knit community. The tone and pace of their repartee reminded me of the Ya-Ya Sisters.

P.S. The reason these photos are so special to me is that I don’t believe the Haenyeo are a normal part of the tourist experience. I got up at 5:15 am one morning hoping to catch the sunrise on Jungmun beach near the Lotte Hotel. I was 20 minutes too late for that but right on time for the divers.




One response

11 08 2008

Welcome back! You’d enjoy reading The Pearl Diver: A Novel by Jeff Talarigo. Its about a Japanese woman who does this deep diving. Your experience with the real thing sounds amazing!

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