Explore the unique culture of women divers, haenyeo, in Jeju island
Haenyeo walking to the sea along a road lined with canola (rapeseed) fields.
Haenyeo going to work at sunrise.
Haenyeo on the boat, working at sea.
Muljil skill is acquired by lengthy training and experience. Haenyeo near the ocean learned how to swim and dive in the shallow sea at the age of 8 and became baby Haenyeo at age 15. This skill, considered 'superhuman', is gained from individuals' working for long periods of time beneath the sea. They can do the work only if they can control diving time themselves by sensing water pressure and the amount of oxygen, and estimating the distance to the surface of the water.
Starting to dive at the age of 15, Haenyeo continue to do so into their 70s and 80s.
The methods for haenyeos to carry out muljil are threefold: the gotmuljil, which refers to going out to the sea from the shore, the baetmuljil, which goes out to the sea by boat, and finally, the nabar, which refers to sailing for days on a ship and do muljil moving from one island to another.
Haenyeo pointing to the sea 'field' where they will work for the day.
The gotmuljil refers to diving into the fishing area by actually swimming out there from the shore as it would be near the village. The young haenyeos or the senior haenyeos would go into the nearby sea depending on their aptitude.
Batmuljil refers to going out to the sea from the shore.
Haenyeo boarding a boat at a port to go diving.
When haenyeo go diving from a boat, they prepare a brazier in advance for warming their bodies after diving.
Haenyeo jumping into the sea from the boat.
Who will go into the sea first?
Haenyeo diving from a Tewak deep into the sea.
“Ho-oi,ho-oi” – Haenyeo catching her breath.
Carrying the collected agar. Dripping water connotes the heaviness of the burden.
The sea is almost like a field to the haenyeos. The haenyeos know where a certain rock is, where the conches are, and where there are plenty of abalones once they go into the sea. The diving work by haenyeos are carried out in groups and during the spawning season, there is a ban on catching anything. There are also strict regulations as to where certain haenyeos from specific regions can go into which area of the sea.
Before sea mustard farming was started in the 1980s, gathering sea mustard was the most important work of the haenyeo society. Jeju's women and all family members went out to the sea and collected the seaweed. They collected mounds and mounds of seaweed during that time.
Drying brown seaweed.
Haenyeo begin collecting seaweed in April, which is called ‘Miyeokhaegyeong’ (start of collecting seaweed after prohibition period).
The Gaettakie (cleaning of the fishing grounds)
The sea is just like another field for the hanyeos. When the hanyeos go into the sea, there are rocks and fishing grounds. They know by heart where there are plentiful numbers of abalones. The daughters inherit this knowledge from their mothers and eventually become superior hanyeos themselves. The village's fishing grounds are their own property so they carry out the cleaning of the fishing grounds by removing the 'badangpul' (sea grass) which are considered to be weeds. The cleaning of the fishing ground is carried out 2 or 3 times a year and is called 'gaettakie'. It is one of the biggest responsibilities given to the members of the Hanyeos' Association.
Individual diving, where they caught conches, abalones, sea slugs, and sea urchins, take breaks during the summer spawning period. Other seaweed was collected from April to May. Gamtae (Kind of seaweed, Latin name: Ecklonia cava) is collected from July to August, tot is collected from the last day of February until the end of April. In addition, cheoncho is collected from the middle of March to the end of June, cheongak (sea staghorn) is collected from July to August, abalones and conches are caught from October to June, sea urchins are caught from May to July, and finally sea slugs are caught during the winter season.
The catching of sea produce is prohibited depending on their size. Conches which are less than 7cm long are prohibited from being collected and the same applied to obunjagi. Obunjagi which is less than 3.5cm in width is banned from being caught. As for abalones, it is under 10cm in width.
The work with cheoncho and tot is carried out as a group project and sold as a community property. Regardless of the amount completed by an individual, they carry out the work together for a specific period of time, dry it and sell it. After getting rid of all moisture, they leave in the storage space and sell it on the sale date in sacks of 30 kilos and 60 kilos.
Husband holding a basket of collected agar as haenyeo wife emerges from the sea.
Bitchang is an important tool used to pick up abalones from the rock.
Haenyeo weighing collected marine products.
Haenyeo storing topshells in sea.
Sea urchins are creatures that live at the bottom of the sea and are fed to a variety of shellfish. It is cut with a small knife and its yellowish eggs are picked out and washed. The 'boraseonggae' (purple sea urchins) is usually captured during the barley season and so is also known as 'boriseonggae'. The eggs that have been extracted from the sea urchin are called 'eundan'.
An old haenyeo is cleaning green sea urchin, called ‘som’ in Jeju dialect.
Haenyeo delighted by an octopus catch.
Sea creatures, such as the octopus, were allowed to be sold on an individual basis so elderly grandmothers took it out to the market to get good or better prices for them. The profit was used as pocket money or to buy more food.
Going home: Haenyeo returning home after diving.
Frontyard of haenyeo house: Octopus and floating nets hanging on clothesline in the frontyard of a haenyeo house.