Finding Henyo, “Women of the Sea”


Video Length: 2 min

South Korea: Discovering Hyeonyo, “Women of the Sea”

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Written article

France 2 – H. Abdelkhalek, V. Reynaud, H. June Oh, M. Kyung Park

France Televisions

On Jeju Island, women in their 70s and older dive daily in search of abalone, sea urchins and other shellfish. An activity that allows them to earn a living.

It is nicknamed the “Korean Hawaii”. It’s true that Jeju Island in South Korea, with its crystal-clear waters and white-sand beaches, sometimes looks like a tropical Eden. Today, Jeju is the number one tourist destination for South Koreans. A volcanic island where a diverse community of women perpetuates a unique heritage.

That morning, at dawn, about fifty women with an average age of 70 prepared almost every day. Today, Dean Madam Yang is 84 years old. He has been diving for over 60 years: “Yes, it is difficult, but I have to earn money. I will not ask my children for money.

Sea women

They are called henyo, meaning “women of the sea”. Freedivers fishing for crab, sea cucumber or sea cucumber. Today’s plan is to spend four hours in the water harvesting conch. Each henyo is free for a minute or two, sometimes up to 10 meters deep.

At the turn of the 20th century, in South Korea, then very poor, the move allowed women to earn a living while men worked in the fields. By the 1950s, there were more than 30,000 henyos. Today only 2,000 to 3,000 remain.

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