The Sea Women of South Korea

The Sea Women of South Korea (Image 1)

It’s Friday, and I bet you are ready for a break…  especially if the work week has been a long one.  Well, imagine working like this…  diving 65 feet to the ocean floor and back for six hours WITHOUT breathing apparatus for a living.

It’s the job for a group of female sea divers in South Korea.  On a daily basis, they battle exhaustion to provide for their families. 

After stumbling upon the group a few years ago, photographer Hyung S. Kim decided to create a project to celebrate and bring attention to the women.  The exhibition is called Haenyeo:  Women of the Sea.

I decided to cover the women in a blog topic because I can’t even imagine the environmental elements the women must face each day… and because I find these women simply amazing. 

Haenyeo has a history dating all the way back to 1105.  Numbers, however, have fallen dramatically in the past few years.  There were 14,000 in the 1970s, but the number is down to only 4,000 today.  Half of the female divers are 70 years old, and the oldest is 90.

With the lack of numbers, the Haenyeo are at risk from dying out completely within the next 20 years.

“Living and working under the nature and the power of the ocean made them strong,” says Kim.  

According to The New Yorker, the women start diving when they are only 13 to 15 years old.  They work individually, but there are at least two people in the water at the same time.  

(sources:  The New Yorker, NY Times, The Guardian)

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