Perhaps it was their experience in dealing with the challenges of free diving, or simply their spunky nature as historically independent women, but the haenyeo of Jeju were the only group of women in Korea to rebel against the Japanese occupation of the early 1900s.
In 1932 they organized nearly 5,000 Jeju villagers to protest the way the Japanese were taking over the traditional haenyeo fisheries cooperatives, and controlling the sale of their hard-earned harvest. The location where the women divers gathered in 1932 to foment rebellion, and stand up for their rights, is now marked by a modern museum of glass and concrete. It is a tribute to their strength and resilience.
The Hanyeo Museum is located on the northeast coast of Jeju, just north of the World Heritage site, Seongsan Ilchulban. The museum was opened in 2006 and features a small movie theater showing historical footage of the haenyeo at work, an art gallery with revolving shows, and exhibits illustrating haenyeo life on land and in the sea.
One exhibit hall gives visitors a unique look at a traditional haenyeo house. The women divers are also farmers, working in the fields when they are not diving or taking care of the family. Another hall features the tools of the trade, including examples of the thin cotton diving outfits they wore before wetsuits came along. There is also information on the migration of the haenyeo, as communities of the hardy divers were once scattered across Asian shores.
The third hall features a full size, traditional Jeju fishing boat, the Taewoo, suspended from the ceiling, along with traditional fishing equipment. While the women of Jeju are divers, the men traditionally fished from boats. There is a theory that the task of diving for seafood was taken over by women simply because many men died while fishing far out at sea.
Still, there is no doubt that this museum is a tribute to the haenyeo, a culture that is uniquely Jeju’s.
How to get there The Haenyeo Musuem is located northeast of Jeju-si and north of Seongsan Ilchulbang, in the Jeju Haenyeo Japan Resistance Movement Memorial Park in Hado-ri. From the Jeju bus terminal ask for the bus going to Seongsan and Sehwa. The bus stop is named for the park and museum.
Hours and admission The museum is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. March through Oct. and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. through Feb. Admission is 1,200 won for adults, 900 won ages 12-18 and free under 12.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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