Previewing the Haenyeo Culture Festival
Previewing the Haenyeo Culture Festival
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4th annual celebration at the Haenyeo Museum in Hado-ri, Oct. 15-16

For the fourth consecutive year, the Haenyeo Culture Festival will celebrate the famed diving women of Jeju. However this year’s festival is distinct from its predecessors in several ways.

While the previous three festivals were held in various coastal villages for the general celebration of the haenyeo culture, this year’s event, held at the Haenyeo Museum in Hado-ri with activities at nearby Sehwa Port, has grander intentions.

According to Dr. Choa Hye Gyoung, senior researcher at the museum, the festival has three goals: authenticity, preservation, and globalization.

“We are only now beginning to fully understand the value of this subculture,” Dr. Choa said in a recent interview. “Our aim at this year’s festival is to highlight the worth of the diving women and their profession in terms of eco-feminism and ecological concerns.”

Ten foreigners have been selected to participate in the festival and will be recognized by Jeju Governor Woo Keun Min as “international ambassadors for the haenyeo culture.” While other festivals focus on content, the organizers of the Haenyeo Culture Festival want to create an experiential and educational atmosphere.

This year’s event is more formally organized than those of previous years and is sponsored by the local government.

Citing a goal of the Jeju government to realize the full potential of the haenyeo as a primary icon of this island, Dr. Choa expressed a note of caution.

“We must approach this carefully,” she explained. “If we develop the haenyeo into a ‘product,’ we devalue their rich subculture. Instead, we want to focus on the spiritual and psychological value of this female-oriented culture and celebrate their knowledge as well as their eco-friendly relationship with the sea.”

The Haenyeo Culture Festival will take place on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 15 and 16, with the “international ambassadors for the haenyeo” participating on Saturday.

Scheduled events include skills contests in diving, swimming, and singing as they relate to the haenyeo culture, all of which will take place at Sehwa Port. A photography exhibit, parade, and several types of performances, including a shamanic rite by the Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut Preservation Society, will take place at the museum. Seafood tastings will be available at the local Suhyup branch.

To get to the Haenyeo Museum by bus, visitors can take the dong-il-ju (east belt line) bus from either Jeju or Seogwipo City bus terminals, heading east. The bus stops directly in front of the museum, approximately 50 minutes from Jeju City or 75 minutes from Seogwipo City.

For more information on “Haenyeo culture globalization,” please go to The Weekly’s Web site.

Disclosure: The writer is participating in the festival as an “international ambassador for the haenyeo.”

Dr. Hilty is a cultural health psychologist living on Jeju Island. 

<Anne Hilty  eastwest.psyche@gmail.comJeju Weekly All rights reserved>

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