Stunning photos of haenyo, the last generation of deep-sea diving Korean ‘mermaids’

Haenyo 9
Haenyo means ‘sea women’ in Korean. Courtesy Mijoo Kim

The INSIDER Summary:

• Haenyo are Korean women who deep-sea dive without any equipment to harvest seafood in a century-old practice.
• Their numbers are dwindling quickly.
• Photographer Mijoo Kim documented what many fear will be the last generation of haenyo.


For more than a century, Korean women have earned a living deep-sea diving to catch oysters, sea cucumbers, abalones, sea urchins, and squids.

Known as “haenyo,” meaning “sea women,” they hold their breath for two minutes, diving 65 feet deep without any equipment.

In recent years, their numbers have rapidly decreased. It is estimated that the haenyo will be gone in 20 years, unless more women join their ranks.

Photographer Mijoo Kim set out to document their traditional practice in a photo series entitled “The Mother of the Sea.”

[slideshow]
[slide
permalink=”/#mijoo-kim-was-raised-near-the-sea-in-busan-in-the-southern-part-of-south-korea-1″
title=”Mijoo Kim was raised near the sea in Busan, in the southern part of South Korea.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b0e/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#i-had-a-passing-familiarity-with-haenyos-when-i-started-the-project-but-i-didnt-know-exactly-what-they-go-through-she-said-2″
title=”‘I had a passing familiarity with haenyos when I started the project, but I didn’t know exactly what they go through,’ she said.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b0f/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#at-first-when-kim-asked-to-photograph-them-they-refused-3″
title=”At first, when Kim asked to photograph them, they refused.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b10/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#she-helped-them-peel-sea-urchins-and-drove-them-back-from-dive-sites-until-they-allowed-her-to-take-out-her-camera-4″
title=”She helped them peel sea urchins and drove them back from dive sites until they allowed her to take out her camera.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b11/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#by-getting-to-know-them-and-earning-their-trust-kim-was-able-to-take-intimate-close-up-portraits-of-the-women-5″
title=”By getting to know them and earning their trust, Kim was able to take intimate, close-up portraits of the women.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b0c/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#i-believe-the-distance-between-a-photographer-and-subject-matters-in-the-photos-and-shows-a-level-of-closeness-she-said-6″
title=”‘I believe the distance between a photographer and subject matters in the photos, and shows a level of closeness,’ she said.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b12/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#her-pictures-spare-no-detail-capturing-the-exhaustion-strength-and-understated-grace-of-the-haenyo-7″
title=”Her pictures spare no detail, capturing the exhaustion, strength, and understated grace of the haenyo.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b13/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#while-they-may-dive-to-great-depths-with-the-apparent-ease-of-mermaids-their-job-is-a-difficult-one-8″
title=”While they may dive to great depths with the apparent ease of mermaids, their job is a difficult one.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b14/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#as-the-korean-saying-goes-haenyos-do-the-work-of-the-dead-in-the-land-of-the-living-9″
title=”As the Korean saying goes, ‘Haenyos do the work of the dead in the land of the living.'”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b15/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#they-hold-their-breath-for-two-minutes-diving-over-65-feet-deep-with-no-diving-equipment-10″
title=”They hold their breath for two minutes, diving over 65 feet deep with no diving equipment.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b16/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#i-hope-to-share-not-only-their-beauty-as-women-but-also-their-courage-and-their-tenacity-in-facing-difficulties-during-their-lives-kim-said-11″
title=”‘I hope to share not only their beauty as women, but also their courage and their tenacity in facing difficulties during their lives,’ Kim said.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b17/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#one-of-these-difficulties-is-their-dwindling-numbers-12″
title=”One of these difficulties is their dwindling numbers.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b18/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#there-were-20000-divers-in-1960-today-there-are-only-2500-13″
title=”There were 20,000 divers in 1960. Today, there are only 2,500.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b19/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#kim-attributes-the-decline-to-industrialization-pollution-and-the-dangerous-and-arduous-nature-of-the-work-14″
title=”Kim attributes the decline to ‘industrialisation, pollution, and the dangerous and arduous nature of the work.'”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b1a/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#korean-government-official-said-that-the-haenyo-will-be-gone-in-another-20-years-if-there-are-no-new-recruits-15″
title=”Korean government official said that the haenyo will be gone in another 20 years if there are no new recruits.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b1b/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#haenyo-schools-on-the-island-of-jeju-hope-to-preserve-the-tradition-16″
title=”Haenyo schools on the island of Jeju hope to preserve the tradition.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b1c/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#i-believe-that-these-women-are-carrying-on-an-important-cultural-legacy-kim-said-17″
title=”‘I believe that these women are carrying on an important cultural legacy,’ Kim said.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b1d/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#i-hope-these-haenyos-are-not-the-last-of-their-line-18″
title=”‘I hope these haenyos are not the last of their line.'”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/581a4ce8dd08956c578b4b1e/image.jpg”
source=”Courtesy Mijoo Kim”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.mijookim.com/”
]
[/slideshow]