Korean Diving Women in Jeju Island

In Korea Jejus famous diving women, the haenyo, have long been a symbol of the the island and its purported matriarchal culture, famed for centuries by the people of Jeju-do and Korean mainlanders alike.

They are immortlaized in folk songs, contemporary promotional brochures, as plaster-of-Paris sculptures, and on postcards, souvenir pennants, cups and plates. When conditions are favorable, scores of the haenyo, who range from teenagers to wrinkled grandmothers, can be seen bobbing offshore between free drives for seaweed, shellfish and sea urchins. Fewer drive take place in winter, when the water temperature is down to around 10 degree. There are still several thousand women on the Jeju island still practising the tradition, and drawing in the tourists. In times past, when the haenyo would pliunge into the waters clad only in loose white cotton, it was illegal for any man to set eyes upon them. Things have changed, and these days, in their slick and black ankle-to-nek wetsuits, face maks and snorkles, the sexy sirens of past look more like members of navy demolition team. Nevertheless, they are still the favorite target of every camera-toting tourist who visits Jeju.

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