Thursday, July 14, 2011

Jeju Special: Haenyeo 해녀

        A lot has been written about the Jeju women divers or Haenyeo (해녀) but for some reasons many foreigners even the once who are living in Korea do not know or never heard of them. Let me have this opportunity to write brief information about these strong Jeju women divers, Haenyeo, who are considered very important living heritage in Jeju and the whole Korea.
        I visited Haenyeo Musuem the last time I went to Jeju and learned many things about them. It says haenyeos are women divers in Jeju who dives, as an occupation, for about 2 minutes at depth of approximately over 10 meters in the sea. The museum has a big banner that says they are the "Mother of the Sea."
        On the other hand, a cultural psychologist living on Jeju, Anne Hilty called them "strong woman" of Jeju. She also added that they are glorified by feminists as an example of female leadership and gender equality. In her other article, she called them “mermaid of Jeju Island." She also added that haenyeos are viewed as leaders of the Japanese resistance movement, something I also learned during the tour inside the museum.
        Another writer,  Margaret Turton said that haenyeos hold special status in the patriarchal society of Korea. They were the head of households and gained autonomy and, as the principal wage-earners, economic independence.
        I could still remember when I watched a movie that featured these women divers in my Korean class. The title of the movie is Ineo Gongju (인어공주) My Mother, the Mermaid.Maybe you should also watch it. I could guarantee it's worth it

Read more about Haenyeo (Ineo Kongju) Only)

 picture from Margaret Turton's article Legend of the deep-sea divers

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