brenda paik sunoo

Jeju Grannies of the Sea (Korea)

 

older korean woman in wetsuit getting ready to dive

older korean woman in wetsuit getting ready to go diving in the ocean

older woman getting out of the water after a dive in the sea

Jeju Grannies of the Sea
Jeju Island, Korea. 2009. Digital.

The women divers of Jeju Island (known as haenyeo) are unique and rare workers. For centuries, they have harvested seaweed and shellfish at depths of 20 meters, holding their breath for as long as two minutes without any equipment other than their rubber suits, masks and nets. The Korean women divers of Jeju Island have faced the tempestuous tides of history and struggle for economic survival. Their intimate relationship to the land and sea, their shaman beliefs, and their communal village life have kept them protected from modern pressures. In return, many of the haenyeo live a life of purpose and resilience well into their 90s. They illuminate a steady, fearless course and most of all, an enduring legacy.


About the Artist

Brenda Paik Sunoo is a third-generation Korean-American writer and photojournalist based in Orange County, California. She and her husband lived and worked in Hanoi, Vietnam from 2002 to 2009. During that period, she also spent 7 months living on Jeju Island in order to conduct interviews and photograph the lives of these aging women divers known as haenyeo. Her book Moon Tides: Jeju Island Grannies of the Sea will be published by Seoul Selection this Fall. Other books by the author/photojournalist are Seaweed and Shamans: Inheriting the Gifts of Grief and Vietnam Moment.


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Comments (38)


Ash Nicole
United States

What wonderful photos!
A combination of surprising imagery, and an equally awe-inspiring story.

TaraPhoenix
United States

Beautiful, inspiring. Takes my breath away!

RoseCtyRocka
United States

I love these woman, and the culture they embody. They are monumental symbols of feminine independence, yet at the same time the Jeju Island Grannies of the Sea quietly carry on, exhibiting their unique beauty for centuries.

Thu Kim Vu
Vietnam

These are such beautiful photographs. But to me, it is even more personal as I have been to Jeju island and to be able to spend time with Brenda.

KayC
South Korea

The life energy emanating from the gray-haired woman diver is just awesome. She's such a powerful woman with dignity. Wonderful photo capturing the very moment of her breath and life.

LB
United States

I love powerful women who just do what needs to be done. These photos speak so beautifully to that. What amazing women and amazing photographs. Ms. Sunoo has really captured their essence.

Gail Whang
United States

Brenda Sunoo captures the emotion and strength of the Haenyeo women. What a truly amazing life the Heanyeo women lead. The photos tell the story. BRAVO!

rocky39a
United States

Bravo! A story that is very specific, but steeped rich in metaphor and the universal truths of our existence.

These photos really capture the essence of strength no matter your age; very enduring.

Chris Miller
United States

Speaking as a diver I can honestly say how amazing it is what these women do.

DG
United States

Dayam. Seeing the Haenyeo makes me feel like I can do anything! Inspirational!!! DG

NG
United States

These strong purposeful women are truly awe inspiring. I would love to go in person to see them dive. Ms. Sunoos' photos capture the divers' work ethic and determination in a beautiful way. NG

KG
United States

Wow! Such creative and beautifully artistic photos that encompass a lifetime of stories in each photograph. Very inspiring, I hope I can be as active as these women when I'm in my 90's! Great work!

- Karl

Cat
United States

Incredible photos of incredible women...such an impressive testament to the amazing perseverance and spirit of an ancient culture. Kudos, Brenda!

Benson Wong
Benson Wong
United States

Brenda's photos of the Jeju Grannies are beautiful and inspirational! I'm imagining these remarkable women diving into another world, under the sea...holding their breath for up to two minutes at 20 meters deep. Wow, it's truly amazing because I can't even hold my breath for two minutes out of water!

Amazing! All of Four initial elements around the woman - will, volition,
liberty, freedom...

Amazing! All of Four initial elements around the woman - will, volition,
liberty, freedom...

IMOW Team
IMOW Team
United States

Congratulations to Brenda Paik Sunoo, who is Picturing Power & Potential's first Community Choice Award Winner!

Lovely, inspiring photos of older women!

Birdwatcher
United States

Great images of older women!

mrs.moon
Vietnam

What a unique idea of capturing such last generation of Haenyeo Women! Would Jeju Island be famous as it is if there is no more Haenyeo Women in 20 years? So, What Brenda has captured from those Haenyeo Women will make Jeju Island more historically known in the world.

Thu Kim Vu
Vietnam

Amazing photos !

Sherrinthesea
South Korea

These women harvest the bounty of the sea in a totally sustainable manner. They are my heroes.

sharonsunshine
United States

this photos are amazing. I would like to buy this book and keep it by my bed to inspire me each day.

GraciousLife
United States

I once had an opportunity to watch a documentary of these women's lives. I have the greatest respect for them for what they do, their strong humanity and the love for their families. Very inspirational photos.

HanoiJan
United States

Rare,compelling and inspired images of these ancient mermaids.
Grannies of the Sea rock!!

JT
United States

Absolutely amazing what these women can do and how Brenda has captured their spirit! Well done!

LM Cruz-Osmus
LM Cruz-Osmus
Puerto Rico

Impresionante!! An incredibly powerful message, especially for those in countries where you cease to be productive because you are considered of "the 3rd age" or where age prejudice is becoming more and more acceptable!
Age is definitely not a barrier to work, to create or to be ~ as long as the mind and spirit are engaged! -LM

artistlauralynch
artistlauralynch
United States

Brenda, congratulations on capturing and honoring these incredible women, grannies of the sea! truly symbolic subject matter these women and the sea! and i look forward to your upcoming publication, Moon TIdes: Jeju Island Grannies of the Sea"

Lmacdav
United States

These “Grannies of the Sea” are a beautiful representation of what women of all ages should aspire to…independence, strength, purpose, and the lasting ability to do meaningful work that challenges the body and nourishes the soul.

SteveSF
United States

Powerful images, esp the second one, in ways that pull you in without pretense of drama or spectacular scenery. The photo is uber-focused on the person. Age and gender, of course, come to mind. Then subtly, what's in her hands gives pause. Octopi?? And as my eyes leave the shot, I wondered, could I do that?? What an awesome thought!

D'Arcy Fallon
United States

Fabulous photos, Brenda!! What a worthy subject to profile!!!!

IMOW Team
IMOW Team
United States

Congratulations to Brenda Paik Sunoo, who is the Grand Prize Winner of the Picturing Power & Potential Community Choice Awards!

SFO
United States

Lovely, what a motivational story with memorable photographs that stay with us and teach us!

Gloria Marie
United States

Thank you for sharing these inspiring photographs of older women.

Being from South Korea, I'm familiar with the stories of haenyeo. They are strong mothers and grandmothers of the people of Korea. Unfortunately, like many other things, they are the last of a dying breed in modern Korean society.

beatrice bowles
beatrice bowles
United States

Inspiring and amazing!

Elizabeth Sowell-Zak
United States

The photograph so wonderfully captured the ability of the subject to do what she set out to do, despite her advanced years.



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