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Korean haenyeo divers. Source: ufokim / Adobe Stock.

Haenyeo: The Last Mermaids of Jeju (Video)

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In the azure waters surrounding the historic Korean island of Jeju, a remarkable tradition endures. Enter the world of Kim Ok Ja, a tenacious 78-year-old woman who defies age and nature's challenges daily. Clad in her wetsuit and armed with a fishing spear and net, Kim embarks on a mesmerizing underwater journey into the Pacific Ocean. Her purpose? To secure sustenance for her family through her unique skill of harvesting conch and sea life. Kim is part of an extraordinary lineage known as the "Haenyeo" – a group of fearless women divers whose origins trace back through generations.

With their remarkable diving abilities and profound connection to the sea, the Haenyeo have long been the lifeblood of their coastal community. In an era where modernity threatens traditional ways, Kim's unwavering determination to uphold this cultural heritage is truly inspiring. As the tides of time ebb and flow, the ranks of the Haenyeo continue to dwindle, Kim Ok Ja personifies the spirit of these last mermaids of Jeju, embodying the essence of a vanishing world beneath the waves.

Top image: Korean haenyeo divers. Source: ufokim / Adobe Stock.

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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