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.

    Good mood and openness

    It is a very old and unique culture which is preserved on Jeju Island. Currently, there are around 20,000 Haenyeos and mainly concentrated in Jeju Island in South Korea. However, it is expected that Haenyeos will be disappear in 20 years as the younger generation are not willing to pick up these skills.