Jeju Island’s Haenyo: A User’s Manual, interview with a young diver

you may remember Joe’s photographs from previous posts i did. Joe lives on Jeju, has done for years & for a good chunk of that time he has been documenting shamanism on the island which led him inevitably to the haenyo divers. this interview with the youngest haenyo is an excellent window into the mindset & activities of these mysterious & fascinating women, who are catching the attention of the world more & more.

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The first in a series of posts for 2017 in which I explore issues affecting the women divers (haenyo) of Jeju Island, South Korea– issues primarily related to the gentrification and rapid development of South Korea’s largest island.  I’ve been speaking with the haenyo in depth over the last five years as part of my ongoing documentary project on the spiritual aspects of island life.

The following is an interview with one of the island’s younger divers who I will be calling Kyoung Jin Park. Kyoung Jin wishes to remain anonymous and asked not to have her photo featured in the post.  On our first meeting, we sat down together at a coffee shop. In the following interview, she reflects on the trials and joys of being a young diver. We discussed her experiences with overbearing photographers, the artisans capitalizing on the women divers’ image and the recent…

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Sorry for the delay in commenting, I had some technical problems with my modem that was only resolved just now. I’m glad the cultural conservation issue is back at the forefront.

    Also, I suggest you write some lyrics, you play the guitar and your technical brilliance in accent syllabic meter is a important asset in writing lyrics and hymns. I feel it is a waste of talent for you to only limit yourself to free verse poetry. For example, anything in common meter can be used with many existing melodies.

    1. Sorry to disappoint you but i am an atrocious lyricist. I can write poetry but lyrics are difficult for me. I play mostly improvised music bit of blues, indian or folk.

      1. Keep it in mind. Poetry can be free verse, but lyrics are not so free, and the more I read your older poems, the more I stand in awe at the clockwork like intricateness of the prosody. Hexameter and rhyme is really hard, but you did it and lyrics just happen to need both meter and rhyme. Moreover, meter in lyrics can be very clever and the beauty more obvious to everyone.

      2. Well i am glad you see something in them but from my point of view they look naive & clunky & some of the scansion to keep in the parameters set by the form is just awful to me. I’m not sure i quite agree with you about lyrics. They certainly rhyme but they’re seldom metrically sound. I wrote like that to understand poetry so that if i started breaking rules i knew why & the mechanics of what i was doing.

      3. You know, they did Little Town of Bethlehem in the folk tune of House of The Rising Sun (look it up on youtube), the reason it works is because of 8686 iambic hymn meter. I think the poem America the Beautiful was also written in hymn meter.

        Of course its up to you. But I suggest you could do a little educational post on poetic theory with your older poems as examples. After all, every famous artist’s personal papers and planning sketches are art by themselves as well.

  2. Regarding the temple issue, I noticed from joey’s pictures that most of the offerings these senior residents give are fruit and vegetables. In Upasaka An Shi’s Discourse:

    “[19] Question: Will gods and deities who accept meat offerings be reborn in the evil realms?

    Answer: Sentient beings are reborn as gods and deities because they have cultivated virtue in their past life. Even though they are all virtuous, some are more merciful than others. The more merciful gods will reject offerings of meat. However, the gods that still have habits of anger will accept meat offerings. The merciful gods have more wisdom than blessings; the angry gods have more blessings than wisdom. Therefore,once the heavenly blessings of the merciful gods end, they will not be reborn in the evil realms. However, the gods that are given to anger will most likely be reborn in the lower realms. Everyone must understand that Heaven cherishes all living beings, not just human life.”

    http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2016/08/queries-on-abstention-from-killing-meat-eating/

    Contrast that with the mainland and capital, where mainstream Shaman practices include sticking a pitchfork into a whole pig:

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/13/asia-pacific/south-korean-shamans-enraged-female-rasputin-scandal/#.WHXaX4Tww8Y

    Add two and two together, and the conclusion speaks volumes about people’s general biases.

    1. You should talk to Joe about this. He’ll have a more informed opinion than me.

      1. Thanks, but I don’t really know how to contact him since he seems so busy, perhaps you could consider also broaching the matter on my behalf when you contact him about something else since you have more clout with him.

      2. Comment on his recent post. He is doing a series so he’ll probably see it soon enough.

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