Haenyo – the women divers of Jeju

Hanyo1This isn’t the first time I’ve posted photos of Haenyo, Jeju’s women divers, and I don’t suppose it’ll be the last. The first time was when I saw them over on the east of the island, going out at a preset time with a commentary for the tourists, and doing a little performance.

Hanyo3There was nothing fake or put-on about the divers at Songaksan yesterday. These were women trying to make a living. You could see them out at sea with their floats, occasionally upending and disappearing below the surface with their flippers the last thing to remain visible.

They slowly made their way around the coast. Once they reached the rocky shore, it was apparent that they were pulling nets full of the shellfish they had caught.

It was also apparent that they were not young; no, they were genuinely old. At an age when many people couldn’t do this even if they wanted to (and were probably enjoying retirement), these women are still going into the sea, in December and with the simplest of equipment; they were then dragging their catch out of the sea and over the rocks. Let me guess that they’ll do it all again tomorrow, and have probably been doing it all their lives. Remarkable.


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