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Seongsan village

Seongsanjungang-ro, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, South Korea
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still diving, living legends Seogwipo  South Korea

still diving, living legends

Where the East China Sea meets the Yellow Sea, a subtropical island holds on to its traditions. Jeju-do, off the southwastern tip of the Korean peninsula, is home to the "haenyo," or 'women-of-the-sea.' These hardy divers continue a centuries-old tradition--no tanks on their five-and-six-story dives beneath the surface--just their lungs and determination as they gather urchins, abalone, and whatever else is edible...Only a few thousand of these divers remain, mostly in their 50's and 60's--don't mess with these grannies! The younger generation of the island's women no longer seek to make a living by following in their grandmothers' wet footsteps.

Jeju-do's culture and dialect are distinct from mainland Korea; tea and tangerine plantations, along with UNESCO world heritage sites, dot the volcanic landscape. (You can hike in the world's longest underground lava tube.) And so-fresh-it's-scary seafood is available everywhere...

One of the best, and most popular, places to see these haenyo at work is at the eastern tip of the island, in the cove beneath the Seongsan Ilchulbong crater, also known as 'sunrise peak.' Give them leeway when they emerge from the sea; they're hard at work...