Jeju Island’s Haenyo: A User’s Manual, the diver who tried to die at sea

The traditional free diver, Ok-sun Lee, was born in the very waters in which she planned to carry out her own drowning some 85 years later. Her life-long friend and fellow diver, Man-bok Kim, seeing the practicality of her choice, aided her in the attempt. The two women survived much together—over seventy years of work at sea, the…

The Traditional Village Shamans of Jeju Island, South Korea: PHOTO ESSAY

I’m putting together some of my photographic and video work from documenting  shamanic tradition over the last six years. This is the first series, focusing on the shamans of Jeju Island, South Korea in the context of shrine ceremonies. SKIP TO FULL PHOTO ESSAY   The shamans of Jeju Island, South Korea, like other shamans…

Indigenous Islanders Continue Fight Against 2nd Airport on Jeju Island, South Korea–Hunger Strike Passes its 40th Day

Youth and other activists from some twenty civic groups have joined five villages in their struggle against a planned ‘aerotropolis’ on Jeju Island, South Korea. Still waiting for a statement from the national government’s Ministry of Land and Transportation, residents of South Korea’s largest island continue their fight against the proposed second airport project. The…

The Shamanic Spiritual Life of Jeju Island, South Korea’s Traditional Women Free Divers. Short Documentary: The Youngdeung Gods Visit Jeju Island

Every year the Youngdeung Gods visit Jeju Island, South Korea bringing with them strong spring winds. These deities replenish the sea life as they travel their coarse from village to village along the coast. In Hamdeok Village, the shaman Young Cheol Kim presides over the ceremony, a ritualized banquet at which Jeju Island’s famed women divers…

Scherzando Park, South Korean fashion photographer (interview)

Scherzando Park is part of a new generation of Korean photographers and models that are challenging South Korea’s beauty standards. She prefers emphasizing natural aspects of the Asian form, rather than much sought after Western beauty features. Her photography ranges from gorgeous and mature to playful and humorous. Scherzando recently allowed me to use one…

Pagans We Are does TEDx (video inside)

  This past November, I gave a TEDx talk on Jeju Island, where I’ve been documenting shamanic shrine culture for the past five years, as you well know if you follow my blog. I talk about my video and photography work and the importance of preserving sacred spaces, many of which are in danger on…

Jeju Island’s Haenyo: A User’s Manual, bil-le, bil-le, beach of death

“Back then, many people had been killed by the national government’s forces,” the woman informed me. “Many of the bodies from neighboring villages washed up on Pyeol-ro-Neo-man-ri’s shore. The bille was strewn with bodies. The women of our village were offered a deal. If they cleaned up the corpses, then they’d have the rights to the neighboring village’s territory.”

And clean up the bodies they did. The women of Pyeol-ro-Neo-man-ri, many in their twenties and thirties at the time, some much younger, scoured the jagged bille, combing over each and every surface for the remains of the neighboring village’s dead.