The haeyno, or "sea women," live off the Jeju and Udo Islands in South Korea and dive in the Korea Strait for sea urchins, sea cucumbers, abalone, and squid. According to The Independent, Koreans often say that "haenyo do the work of the dead in the land of the living." The women can be in the water for hours at a time, holding their breath for up to 2 minutes during each dive. They also withstand frigid waters whose temperatures drop as low as minus 6 degrees Celsius (21 degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter. Although women have primarily held this role since the 18th century, the haenyo had been male-dominated since the 5th century. As CNN Travel reports, the divers "have fought for years protecting their rights against men, governments and even armies in order to make a living from the sea."
In a 2016 photo series by Mijoo Kim called The Mother of the Sea, the photographer depicts what could be the last generation of haenyo on Jeju Island. This group of women are in their 60s and 70s, and there aren't any younger generations of Korean women learning to take over in their stead. Instead, they're moving to the mainland of South Korea to pursue higher education and modern careers. Through the photo series, Kim hopes to share "not only their beauty as women, but also their courageousness for facing such difficulties during their lives." Learn more about the haeyno, mermaids, and sea urchins in the videos below.