Elderly 'sea women" of S. Korea sustain livelihoods through deep-water diving

Elderly 'sea women" of S. Korea sustain livelihoods through deep-water diving

Haenyou women divers on Jeju Island, listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, sell shellfish they collect from sea to tourists on land for their livelihoods

By Serhat Akkan

JEJU, South Korea (AA) - Elderly women, known as "Haenyeo," meaning "sea women," who live in South Korea's southern Jeju Island, support their families by selling products they retrieve from underwater.

Haenyeo women divers, who live on the island with over 370 volcanic peaks, can dive without tanks to depths of up to 9 meters and stay underwater for about 1.5 minutes.

Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Haenyeo women make their living by selling shellfish they collect from the sea to tourists on land.

Maide Serin Cig, the Marketing Manager of the Korea Tourism Organization, provided information about Haenyeo and life on Jeju Island to Anadolu correspondent.

Cig pointed out that the history of Haenyeo women in the region is quite ancient, saying, "There are many Haenyeo in different regions, but the oldest ones are in Jeju. Haenyeos in this region are known for being hardworking and strong."

Noting that Haenyeos are generally 80 years and older, Cig said, "The development of society and the difficulty of the work are causing the number of Haenyeo to decrease. The younger generation no longer wants to do this job. That's why the age of Haenyeo is increasing day by day."

Cig reported a master-apprentice relationship among Haenyeo, divided into three classes: beginner, intermediate, and master.


- Featured in TV series

Maide Serin Cig said that Haenyeo, who are often portrayed in Korean dramas, have also been featured in one of the most popular series of recent years, "Our Blues."

Cig explained that the series tells the love story of a young woman who becomes a Haenyeo after coming to the island from the city to make a living and a local young man from Jeju Island.

82-year-old Park Yeonja, one of the Haenyeo, stated that she has been diving since she can remember, saying, "I learned this profession from my mother, and now I am trying to teach it to my daughter."

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