I took these in Busan. It’s the city I was born in before our family moved to New York in 1992.
The woman in the hat with her head turned is my aunt. She’s my dad’s older sister. She has two sons–my cousins who are both a couple of years older than I am–but one of them passed away at the age of 27. I was 22 when I heard the news. It was really shocking and horrible. Despite her loss, she’s a strong woman with a generally positive outlook on life and I love her for that.
The women with the hats and the rubber gloves are “hae-nyeo”–otherwise known as women of the sea. They’re diver women who forage underwater for seafood like sea urchins, sea cucumbers, clams, oysters, mussels, etc. It’s a historic profession: these women who lived by the ocean had to dive for food in order to feed their children while their men were drafted away to war.
They’re profession is becoming rare. A Fulbright fellow from the same year as me named Liz Chae made a film called THE LAST MERMAIDS in 2009. It’s about the divers of Jeju island: http://arts.columbia.edu/film-program-liz-chae-09soa