Seongsan-ri
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fresher-than-fresh: Haenyo's labors
While visiting the subtropical island of Jeju-do, off the SW coast of Korea, last month, we were able to meet some "haenyo." ("Haenyo" roughly means 'sea maiden.') These women divers regularly descend down to 60 feet under the sea, without any tanks, holding their breath for up to two minutes at a time, gathering edible shellfish, urchins, etc.... With modernization, few younger women are taking up this centuries-old lifestyle; only a few thousand are left, and many of them are in their 50's and 60's, with some even diving until they're in their 80's. (Gives a new meaning to 'active seniors...') Abalone, sea cucumbers, urchins--very popular with Japanese tourists--displayed while still alive, these edibles are fresher-than-fresh! My wife and I were able to accompany my mother on this visit; although she is Korean, she had never been to this far-flung corner of her own country. Newly retired herself, it was poignant for her to be able to meet a few of these living legends.
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