On an island off the coast of South Korea, there exists a dying art form, a relationship between humans and the sea that is remarkably unique.

This Saturday Around the Wold, we head to Jeju, an island with remarkable women who have been keeping a centuries-old tradition alive.

Image: a Haenyeo in her wetsuit and mask holding a octopus and walking out of the water

Image: Newpix

Meet the Haenyeo, the sea women. These awe-inspiring women take to the ocean day after day, free diving in search of sea life to feed and support their families.

What makes the Haenyeo even more extraordinary is that most of them are making these daily dives, up to five hours at a time, in their 70’s and 80’s. These mermaids are keeping alive a tradition passed on from mother to daughter generation after generation, and they are the last practitioners of a dying way of life.

We being our exploration of these captivating women with a short, two part series…

What a truly remarkable work we live in. I watch these videos and marvel at the strength of humanity. I am reminded of how hardship gives rise to extraordinary people. And of how universal our desire to provide a better life for our children is. We each carry on a lineage of some kind in our own way, in our food, our religion, our language, our social customs, each of us has a history to pass on.

Perhaps the lifestyle of the Haenyeo won’t last far into the future, but it is vital that we celebrate and cherish the lives they lead. They kept families alive, raised the next generation of citizens, and passed down their heritage. These extraordinary women should not be forgotten in the annals of time.

I want to take one more moment to celebrate the Haenyeo. Here’s a remarkable video that takes you beneath the waves to dive with these women. It’s a breathtaking dance of human and sea…

What legacies will you carry on?

Our world is made so much more rich and complex by the diversity of its cultures. As we move toward an age of seemingly increasing homogenization and globalization, it is up to us to cherish our heritage and find ways to tell the stories of the ones who came before. Even if we live wildly different lives from our forefathers, simply knowing the stories of our ancestry and passing them down keeps their world alive.

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I’ll leave you with a little homework. Go find somebody, a parent, grandparent, neighbor, loved one, and ask them about their upbringing. Ask them where they came from, what life was like where they grew up, how they have seen the world change. You are guaranteed to walk away carrying a small piece of heritage with you, and certainly a good story!

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

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Notes:

  1. “Haenyeo, Sea Women of Korea’s Jeju Island Part I.” YouTube. ARIRANG NEWS, 26 May 2016. Web. 16 Sept. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opRhZPk6ZoE>.
  2. “Haenyeo, Preserving the Dying Legacy.” YouTube. ARIRANG NEWS, 27 May 2016. Web. 16 Sept. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xg9wQX8BliU>.
  3. “HaeNyeo: Women of the Sea.” YouTube. Korean Cultural Center New York, 10 Feb. 2015. Web. 16 Sept. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IT4YWuc8Aw>.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

COO Ever Widening Circles

Liesl is a camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often floundering—yoga lover. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV