For the women of Jeju, Ieodo was a destination for husbands and sons who had been lost at sea. It was also considered the women’s destination following the loss of significant others.
According to “The Southern-most Ieodo,” by Hyun Kyeng Byung, Park Yong Ahn, and Go Choong Seo, legend has it that a long time ago, a woman and her father-in-law took to the high seas off the shores of Jeju to search for the woman’s lost husband in a rowboat. While searching, the woman sang “Ieodosanna, Ieodosanna (meaning ‘Is he living in Ieodo?),”a song still sung today by the Jeju women divers (haenyeo) during work. When she finally arrived at Ieodo, her husband was there, married to another woman. The wife and father begged him to come home. At last he agreed, but on their way back to Jeju they were hit by a storm and ultimately drowned.
For Jeju women, Ieodo was thought to be a mystical place where there is no need to worry about food or shelter. It represented death and conversely also stood for peace.
It has also been said that those who venture far enough out to sea to glimpse Ieodo will never return. These are not only the words of a fable, they also hold a grain of truth. At its highest point Ieodo is still 4.6 meters under the surface of the water. It is impossible to see it with the naked eye in calm seas. If one is able to see Ieodo, it must be during a heavy storm, which means large waves, torrential rain, and a diminished chance of survival.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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