'The Lifelong Journey of Haenyeo in the Ocean'
Haenyeo Museum / October 2014
Haenyeo maintain Haenyeo community through their strong social bond
Listening to the Rules of Sea-diving- by doing work together, they can avoid dangerous situations.  
Haenyeo sitting at port while waiting for boat  

Sea farm, which is the haenyeo workplace, is operated by an Eochongye, Haenyeo cooperative.

In Jeju Island, there are about 100 Eochongye, one belonging to each coastal village. They have their own regulations about the boundary of fishing ground, qualifications for catching sea products, and catching methods and periods, which are kept strictly. This is a pledge to preserve and co-exist with the ocean eco-system.

This haenyeo community shows a form of 'town meeting'. When they have some problems, they get together and make decisions through free discussion until every member understands and accepts.

Haenyeo are divided into three levels: Sang-gun, Jung-gun, and Ha-gun, according to their experience and skills. Haenyeo possessing special wisdom and virtue are called 'Dae-Sanggun'; they lead the community for their safety and harmony.

Forming a Community of Fishing Industry   - The divers' union has been an autonomous unit since the latter era of the Choson Dynasty. The fishery community has been organized in order to protect the rights of Haenyeo.  
Haenyeo preparing in the changing facility of Guldong Port before going out to sea.  
Friendly Talks at the Bulteok (Outdoor Fireplace)  


Bulteok is a place where Haenyeo exchange clothes, prepare for diving and rest during work. The Bulteok surrounded with stones in circle has a bonfire in the center to keep Haenyeo warm.

Haenyeo are exchanging information and skills on diving, fishing grounds and consolidating their ideas and making decisions in the Bulteok.

There used to be 3~4 Bulteoks in each village depending on the size of the village. Currently 70 Bulteoks exit. Several Bulteoks have been replaced by modern dressing rooms which are equipped with hot and cold water facilities for comfort since 1985.

Bulteok were built following the natural topography.  
Warming the Body by the Fire  
Haenyeo sitting and chatting around fire pit shelter  
Seaside fire pit shelter - Haenyeo warming themselves around a fire pit    
Diving haenyeo and cradle

Fishing village societies and Haenyeo's unions regulate the sea farms and fishing grounds.

There are 100 fishing village societies which are attached to the fisheries cooperative union in Jeju. Haenyeo call the fishery a sea farm. Each fishing village society enacted the regulations which include the boundary of fishery, qualification for harvesting sea products, harvesting methods and periods of allowing and prohibiting harvest.

Conches which were less than 7cm long were prohibited from being collected and the same applied to obunjagi. Obunjagi which was less than 3.5cm in width was banned from being caught. As for abalones, it was under 10cm in width.

Sorting the topshells - catching and harvesting marine life is prohibited depending on their size.  
Haenyeo weighing collected marine products on large scale (In the 1970's)
Topshells and scale (in the 2000's)
In March, Haenyeo go out to the inter-tidal zone and gather seaweed using a hoe. Most fishing villages collect and share seaweed together.

The work with cheoncho and tot were carried out as a group project and sold as a community property. Regardless of the amount completed by an individual, they carried out the work together for a specific period of time, dried it and sold it. After getting rid of all moisture, they left in the storage space and sold it on the sale date in sacks of 30kg and 60kg.

Individual diving where they caught conches, abalones, sea slugs, and sea urchins took a break 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.

Drying the tot 
Haenyeos work together as a community to collect, dry and sell the tot.  
When haenyeo collect seaweed or agar, their husbands wait for them and help lift their heavy nets full of seaweed, onto the shore.
60 ~ 70kg of Cheoncho Collecting
Haenyeo going to dive, with drying agar along the roadside
Cultivators to load marine products
Wariting for haenyeo return with cultivators to load collected marine products
Many cultivators mobilized for agar collection  
Husbands are part and parcel of the daily work
Family of Haenyeo come to the sea to assist  
The Gaettakie (Cleaning of the Fishing Grounds) - The sea is just like another field for the Hanyeos.  The village's fishing grounds are its own property so they carry out the cleaning of the fishing grounds by removing the 'badangpul' (sea grass) which are considered 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. 
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.

Contribution to and participation in the common good for the community


Jeju Haynyeo helped to pave the main road and build a school by donating part of their income. All proceeds from the fixed area of 'Ijangbadang' went the head of village who worked for the village official. There used to be 'School Badang' which supplied school support fees for elementary school.

When the school in Onpyeong, Sungsaneup burnt down in 1950, Haenyeo contributed funds raised by selling seaweed from 'School Badang' and rebuilt the school from 1951 to 1958. The school's supporting association erected a commemorative monument in 1961 to pay tribute to Haenyeo's charitable deeds.

Commemorative Monument in Onpyeong
Onpyeong Elementary School rebuilt by the proceeds from 'School Badang'

Chulga Haenyeo

Haenyeo who left Jeju for foreign countries as well as Gyeongsang-Do, Gangwon-do, Jeolla-do, ChungChong-Do in nation since 19th century, are called Chulga Haenyeo.

From the beginning of the 1880's, with the overfishing on the part of Japanese diving boats, there was a danger of abalones becoming extinct. Therefore, the Haenyeo had to venture out to different places in search of more game. In 1895, they left for Kyeongsangnamdo. They left not only to Kyeongsang-do, Kangwon-do, Dadohae, Kyeongbuk, and Hamkyeong in the domestic location, but also left for Japan's Tokyo & Osaka, China's Chingdao and Da-lien, and Russia's Vladivostok. The work as divers away from their hometown was a commodity possible to be imported because of the drying of the fisheries, and the value of conches or abalones. In conclusion, we could say that they were quite aware of their labor value as an economic asset.

Haenyeo going out to sea by boat

Haenyeo Song


The songs which Haenyeo used to sing, pulling on oars when moving to the islands or distant sea are referred to as Haenyeo songs. When deeply homesick, Haenyeo improvised by pulling their oars and singing songs. The songs expressed the emotion and recognition of the Haenyeo community which still exists today. The Haenyeo were designated as the number one intangible cultural asset by Jeju province in 1971.

Haenyeo diving from raft-style boat and sailboat


Haesindang(Shrine), situated along the sea, is a ritual place for Haenyeo to pray for their safety and abundance. Jamsugut and Yowanggut are dances performed for safety and abundance. Jamsugut is performed on the 8th of March on lunar calendar in 

Dongkimnyongri and is a symbolic ritual and festival for Haenyeo's community. The cost of the dance is shared by the Haenyeo. The dance illustrates unity of life and work. While performing the dance, <yowangmaji> is a ritual to call the Dragon King to pray for abundance and safety. < Sidream> is a homeopathic magical ritual to plant seeds into the sea to harvest an abundance of abalone, conches, agar-agar and hijiki.

A female shaman is fortunetelling by throwing rice into the air in Jamsugut, Kimnyeong where Haenyeo are praying for a good catch.  
Credits: Story

by  — Kang
Kwon Yong, Kwon Mi Seon

Photos from  — Jeju Photo Members, Haenyeo Museum,Seo
Jae Chul, Kang Man Bo

Planning — Haenyeo

Credits: All media
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