No matter how many years I spend on Jeju-do Island, it never fails to surprise me pretty much every time I step out the door.
I can only imagine how much more so that experience must be for first-time visitors to Jeju.
Recently we spent some time out on the northeast coast at Hado Village, one of Jeju’s many working fishery villages. Its population is about 2,000 people and it boasts a larger than average, productive fishing ground.
Its haenyeo women divers, who currently number around 250, have been working those waters for centuries collecting abalone, conch, sea cucumbers, etc. They work closely with governmental and public programs to promote the essence of haenyeo culture.
Did you know? On November 30, 2016, the culture of Jeju Haenyeo was designated an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It is expected that this recognition will help promote and preserve the traditions of Jeju diving women for future generations.
In fact, even on our own we learned a lot while we were there.
We explored the overall layout of the village and could see evidence of their traditional fishing techniques. One example was the wondam, or stone walls, that use the natural topography and tidal range to trap or expose fish (such as halibut), clams, limpets, and the like, at low tide.
In the Jeju language, this gathering of marine products at low tide is known as barutjabi.
We also learned that in keeping with the environmental protections and practises agreed upon by all of Jeju’s women divers, Hado village divers limit their collection of conch to March through May, and October through December. Similarly, the season for mollusks there is limited to July and August.
We also saw a traditional walled outdoor fireplace area called a bulteok. The stone walls would protect from the strong wind as the divers change in and out of their gear. It was also a place they could chat and feel at ease, reinforcing a sense of sisterhood and their tightknit community.
(The haenyeo, as is well know, were leaders and breadwinners within Jeju society, while the rest of Korean society was much more patriarchal.)
The day we were there wasn’t particularly bright, but we got a sense of the history and feel of the place. Udo Island, Seongsan Sunrise Peak and Jimibong Volcanic Cone are all visible from the village breakwater, so it’s picturesque even in these overcast winter conditions.
(My plan is to return as soon as possible when the weather cooperates, and climb Jimibong for a nice vantagepoint to shoot more photos. If you’ve done that hike already, we’d really like to see your photos/videos. Please feel free to share them in a comment below or on our SNS channels.)
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