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Sea women form special culture on South Korean island of Jeju

Jan 05, 2016 Ideally, 7:30am on a winter morning, should find most people curled up in their beds with their duvet thrown over them. But that isn’t the case for a set of Korean female divers in the Jeju province, who go by the name of “haenyeo”.

Known for their independent spirit and determination, the haenyeo are representative of the semi-matriarchal family structure of Jeju.

Carrying round yellow buoys on their shoulders and baskets, these sea women dive about 5 to 15 meters deep into the sea, in search of seafood such as abalones and sea cucumbers between rocks.

Speaking after an outing, one of the sea women said:

“I got much more than expected. I’ve got abalones, sea cucumbers and sea urchins,”

Commenting on the quality of the seafood, a Japanese tourist said:

“They worked so hard in such cold weather. I’m touched by them. I tasted the seafood harvested by them and they tasted very good, especially the abalones,”

However, because of the risk involved and the advancement in modern fishing, the number of active haenyeos on the island has dropped drastically.

So in a bid to preserve the culture, the South Korean government has set up a haenyeo museum and a school dedicated to haenyeo education on the island.

The country has also been making efforts to make haenyeo listed as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.

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