Welcome to K Day on the A to Z Blog Challenge where I am searching out mermaid tales from around the world. I recently learned of a mermaid tale from Korea, where two of my children were born.
Korea is home to a mermaid named Princess Hwangok who came from Naranda, a kingdom under the sea inhabited by mermaids. She married King Eunhye of Mugung and came to live onshore with him. She was terribly homesick and every full moon she sat on a rock and gazed out over the ocean trying to see her homeland. There is a statue of her on Dongbaekseom Island which is located near Busan’s famous Haeundae Beach.
I have been to Busan several times but haven’t made it to Dongbaekseom Island. I guess I’ll need to go back.
South Korea is also home to the famous haenyo women divers of Jeju Island who seem like real life mermaids. These women dive for seaweed, shellfish, sea urchins, octopi, and seaweed in a centuries old tradition. Only women become divers – no men. According to an article by Youngmi Mayer in Lucky Peach Magazine:
“The haenyo are women divers found primarily on Korea’s Jeju Island—a seven-hundred-square-mile jelly-bean-shaped island with jagged coastlines, off the southern coast of the mainland. The haenyo catch any shellfish small enough to fit in their buoyed nets, then sell the shellfish whole or as sashimi at tiny restaurants they run by the shore. The women—some in their seventies—are carrying on a legacy that goes back generations. In their grandparents’ day, there were many dozens of haenyo, they tell me. Today the number is much smaller.” You can check out the rest of the fascinating article here.
On the north shore of the island sits a lovely mermaid statue who seems to be encouraging the haenyo divers.
The island is home to the the Jeju Haenyeo Museum which has exhibits on the haenyeo divers.
What do you think of these women divers?
Informative and interesting topic.I wish these mermaid tales were true. Sometimes i really would like to believe that they existed, may be centuries ago.
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Joan Schoettler says
Thanks for yet another great post. The Jeju Haenyeo Museum’s exhibit invites you into the lives of the haenyeo divers. Be sure to check out their website. Very well done…thank you for sharing it.
Tina Cho says
I’ve heard of these stories. Very fascinating.
evelyne holingue says
Have you read On Such a Full Sea from Chang-Rae Lee? It’s not for kids but now that I read about the Korean mermaid I wonder if the Koeran American author didn’t use this theme in his novel. A strange story that I loved without knowing about the legend you are sharing today. Another interesting post, in any case.
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I cannot express how thankful i am for teaching me something new. i am in love with this mermaid story.
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I think one has to be in great shape to still be diving in their 70s. Wow!
I have heard of the Kerean divers. I heard they can stay underwater for a remirably long time.
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Claire Annette Noland says
There are also pearl divers in Japan that can stay underwater for incredibly long. It is interesting that in both countries this is women’s work.