Hyung S. Kim

Mermaids exist, but only in South Korea.

These women are known as the haenyeo which literally translates as 'women of the sea'.

It's their job to freedive into the ocean with just a face mask and a pair of slippers, searching for pearls to sell.

It's been their way of life for years, hunting for oysters and sea snails known as abalone.

Photo: Hyung S. Kim

Now, the Korean Cultural Service New York has released these amazing portraits as part of their upcoming exhibition, HaeNyeo: Women of the Sea in New York City, USA.

They were taken by a photographer called Hyung S. Kim, who has documented the lives of these amazing women on the island of Jeju since 2012.

Photo: Hyung S. Kim

These women will swim among sharks, diving 30ft underwater to find pearls.

They hold their breath for up to two minutes at a time before breaking to the surface. Haenyeo will do this around 60 times per session.

Photo: Hyung S. Kim

Why are they traditionally made up of women?

Well, it was thought that women were more suited to diving for pearls because they naturally had more fat on their bodies to keep them warm.


Haenyeo aren't young women. In fact, the youngest on record is 45 with women diving well into their 90s.

Pearl hunting doesn't pay very well in South Korea, so it's become a profession that's nearly extinct among younger generations.


Find more about this and these exclusive photos on Traveldo.se

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