The haenyeo, or “sea women,” of South Korea’s Jeju Island have been diving by necessity at least since the year 400, and there are hints in ancient texts that their practice predates the first of the Three Kingdoms of Korea more than two thousand years ago. Traditionally, the men fished in boats while the women dove, and in the seventeenth century, many of the men were lost to war, shipwrecks, and storms. The haenyeo became the breadwinners of Jeju families, turning Korea’s traditional patriarchal society on its head and rewiring the cultural power on the island.
In this short film, free diver Kimi Werner traveled to Jeju to meet the women who’ve long inspired her. In Adventure Journal 16, which you can pick up here, we featured photographer @hyungskim‘s images of the haenyeo.