JEJU-DO ISLAND

Rendezvous with the freediving

Haenyeo grand mothers of the sea

> Encounter with Jeju-do Island off the coast of South Korea < 

The locals call Jeju-do "The Hawaii of the Orient" as they are attracted to the natural treasures of the island: the Ch'eon-ji-yeon and Cheong-bang waterfalls around Sogwip'o, extensive systems of spectacular lava-tube formations, large caves, extinct volcanoes, and the rough sea. So, obviously, as island enthusiast, we had to spend a week here exploring the island. The entire island is a World Heritage Site, and the nature is admittedly a big draw, with the island often clothed in swirling mist. We think however that the real treasure is the people and odd culture characterized by the Haenyeos.

Women here are known as Haenyoes. They are the heads of the unusual and unique matriarchal family structures and the island society. They work as free-divers all year round whatever the temperature of the water, collecting abalones and conches. All over the island, we saw how lava and explosive magma was a constant feature, not just in natural formations but also as a material for gnome-like, slightly eerie manmade statues and sculptures, which create a watchful atmosphere while on the island. It creates a strong sense of mythology and spirit that speaks to the Korean visitor (and the few foreigners who come to hear about the island) with the magnetism of a pilgrimage.

 

 

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© Anders M. Pedersen & Jakob M. Pedersen

All photos have been taken by Anders & Jakob.

    Haenyeo (해녀, female diver)

    Haenyeos are female divers who enter the sea without any breathing equipments and catch seafood susch as octopus, spoon worms, seaweed, and clams. They are able to dive up to 25m below sea leavel for anywhere between 30 secs to 2 minutes. The mos striking part is the age of these Haenyeos, which is average more than 60 years old.