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Meet Korean ‘Mermaids’, The Last Generation Of Haenyo

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The island of Jeju in South Korea is famous because the flight route between Jeju and Seoul is the busiest in the world. But it’s also famous for something else, namely its “Sea Women.”


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Mijoo Kim, a New York-based photographer, decided to document these fearless ladies in an intimate series called The Mother of the Sea. Referred to locally as Haenyo, these intrepid elderly women swim up to depths of 65ft (20 metres) to the ocean floor where they collect sea abalones, urchins, sea cucumbers and squid. They do so without oxygen tanks and sometimes they hold their breath for over 2 minutes at a time while submerged in the freezing cold waters of the Korea Strait. Many of them are over 70 years old and their numbers are slowly dwindling as young Korean women move to the mainland in search of education and employment. “These women divers are carrying on a Korean legacy and will be the last of their kind,” Kim told The Huffington Post. “They are the last generation of Haenyo.”

These women from Jeju in South Korea are called Haenyo, which means “Sea Women”