Jeju Grannies of the Sea (Korea)

brenda paik sunoo

Jeju Grannies of the Sea (Korea)

older korean woman in wetsuit getting ready to dive 
older korean woman in wetsuit getting ready to go diving in the ocean 
older woman getting out of the water after a dive in the sea 

Jeju Grannies of the Sea 
Jeju Island, Korea. 2009. Digital.

The women divers of Jeju Island (known as haenyeo) are unique and rare workers. For centuries, they have harvested seaweed and shellfish at depths of 20 meters, holding their breath for as long as two minutes without any equipment other than their rubber suits, masks and nets. The Korean women divers of Jeju Island have faced the tempestuous tides of history and struggle for economic survival. Their intimate relationship to the land and sea, their shaman beliefs, and their communal village life have kept them protected from modern pressures. In return, many of the haenyeo live a life of purpose and resilience well into their 90s. They illuminate a steady, fearless course and most of all, an enduring legacy.

About the Artist

Brenda Paik Sunoo is a third-generation Korean-American writer and photojournalist based in Orange County, California. She and her husband lived and worked in Hanoi, Vietnam from 2002 to 2009. During that period, she also spent 7 months living on Jeju Island in order to conduct interviews and photograph the lives of these aging women divers known as haenyeo. Her book Moon Tides: Jeju Island Grannies of the Sea will be published by Seoul Selection this Fall. Other books by the author/photojournalist are Seaweed and Shamans: Inheriting the Gifts of Grief and Vietnam Moment.

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