History of haenyo
The term Jam-Nyo (diving women) was first used in the 17th Century. A large migration of these women to the mainland in 1887 and Japan in 1903 has been documented that shows a large growth in their productivity.
Until the 19th century, diving was mostly done by men. The job became unprofitable for men since they had to pay heavy taxes, unlike women who did not. Women took over the diving (which was considered the lowest of jobs) and, because of the great dependence on sea products in most places on Jeju, became the main breadwinners. It could also be said that women simply were more adapted for the job, with their bodies keeping them warmer and being more suited to swimming than a male, with more body fat. With that, they often became "the head" of their family. On Mara Island, where sea products accounted for almost all sources of revenue before it became increasingly attractive as a tourist site, gender roles were entirely reversed. Often men would look after the children and go shopping while the women would bring in money for the family.
This evolution clashed with Korea's Confucian culture, in which women have traditionally been treated as inferior. As a result, administrators from Seoul (unsuccessfully) tried to bar the women from diving, ostensibly because they exposed bare skin while at sea.
Starting from the late 1970s, exports of sea products to Japan such as abalone and conch have made the sea women richer than ever, allowing them to fix their houses, build new ones in Jeju City and send their daughters to college. However, there is a threat to the haenyo's continued success: with their daughters choosing to work in the island's tourism industry or in the big cities, the haenyo will most likely disappear. While in 1950 there were as many as 30,000 haenyo on the island, in 2003 there were only 5,650 sea women registered as divers, of whom 85% were over 50 years old. In 1965, as many as 20,000 diving women. With the number of sea women declining and with tourism giving Jeju men more opportunities, it is unclear what will happen to their daughters' status in their communities and home, though it is unlikely that the matriarchal family structures will continue to survive.
Time in the water varies by season with as few as 20 minutes in the winter to as long as 95 minutes in the summer. Daives have been observed to last approximately one minute spending 30 seconds on the surface between dives. Routine diving occurs in shallow water though deeper excursions to 15 or 20 meters have been observed.
The divers must also contend with other dangers such as jellyfish, and sharks.
Haenyo in contemporary culture
My Mother, the Mermaid, a 2004 film about a mother (who used to be a haenyo) and her daughter.
Tamra, the Island, a 2009 television series set in the 17th century, in which the heroine is a haenyo.
Swallow the Sun, a 2009 television series in which the protagonist's mother is a haenyo.
Haenyeo: Women of the Sea, a 2013 short film about Chewar Park, a still active and unbelievably vibrant 82-year-old Haenyeo diver. Examining her daily routine as well as her past, Park sheds light on this unique matriarchal culture that has changed little since the 19th century. HaenyeoFilm.com HaenyeoDocumentary.com IMDB Page
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Haenyeo.|
Haenyo carrying with baskets toward the sea in Ulsan
After emerging from the sea, haenyo selling her gathered seafood to people on the coast of Jeju.
The display shows haenyo in the past at a museum in Jeju
- Ama divers in Japan
- Culture+Travel magazine feature about the haenyo of Jeju-do
- Korean culture
- List of Korea-related topics
- Hong, SK (1965). "Hae-nyo, the diving women of Korea". In: Rahn, H; Yokoyama, T (eds) Physiology of Breath-Hold Diving and the Ama of Japan. (United States: National Academy of Sciences - National Research Council): 99-112. ISBN 0-309-01341-0. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
- "Haenyo, Female Divers". Chejudo Tourist Association. 1997. Retrieved 2013-10-06.