March 11th to April 10th, 2015
Korean Cultural Service Gallery Korea
Opening Reception: March 11th, 6 pm to 8 pm


The Korean Cultural Service New York is proud to announce a major exhibition HaeNyeo: Women of the Sea featuring photography and video art focused on the extraordinary lives of Korean female free divers called haenyeo, examining them in a newly artistic point of view.

HaeNyeo: Women of the Sea will be open for public viewing from March 11th, 2015 to April 10th, 2015. A preview and Opening Reception will be held on March 11th, 6 pm to 8 pm at the Gallery Korea at the Korean Cultural Service New York (460 Park Ave. 6th Floor, New York, NY 10022).

The exhibition presents photographic works by Hyung S. Kim who captures the true reflection of haenyeo’s everyday life on Korea’s Jeju Island. This photographic collection has been in production since 2012, when Kim first became fascinated by the historical background and captivating lives of haenyeo women, who have embodied the core strength of Jeju’s culture. Kim has since been residing on the Island to produce a photographic collection, capturing their most natural states as they come out of their deep dives.

Photographer Hyung S. Kim shared: “The haenyeo culture is not simply an occupation, but is truly a spirit and lifestyle of Jeju Island that embodies the entire depth of the culture. I have tried to capture this essence of the women, and I find it especially meaningful to be holding this exhibition in New York for the first time.”

This exhibition comes to the US at an opportune time as haenyeo culture has been selected as a candidate for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Haenyeo are one of Korea’s most beautiful cultural assets, and the designation would provide much needed support for the preservation of the dwindling numbers of haeneyo. Recognition by UNESCO would bring further tangible benefits in support of the revitalization of the haenyeo community.

Hee Sung Cho, Curator at the Korean Cultural Service New York, has stated: “It is my hope that this exhibition visually demonstrates the beauty of haenyeo culture, with its rich history, natural beauty, and reverence for nature. Haenyeo are not only a precious cultural asset to Korea, but the entire world.”

In addition to the photographic works by Kim, the exhibition will display documentary photos and video materials depicting the life of haenyeo, as well as their uniforms, tools, and diving practices.

The HaeNyeo exhibition is presented in part with the 2015 Asia Week New York and in its mission “to promote Asian art in New York City [in collation with] top-tier Asian art specialists, major auction houses, and world renowned museums” including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and the Brooklyn Museum among many others.


In conjunction with the exhibition, photographer Hyung S. Kim has published a catalog of his works on display. A limited number will be available for purchase during the Opening Reception on March 11th, 2015.

About Haenyeo

Haenyeo are the female divers who harvest seafood by diving into the ocean without diving equipment or breathing apparatus. The haenyeo culture is Korea’s unique indigenous cultural heritage that has a history that goes back to the primitive age when people began to dive for food in the sea. Most haenyeo reside in Jeju Island, located in the southern end of Korean peninsula, and these women, being the primary providers of their families, have formed the familial, cultural, and essential core of the entire island.

Haenyeo know that the sea is a subject to be tendered and preserved, instead of being mass harvested. The knowledge and wisdom they obtained has been passed down to future generations. They accumulated harvesting skills and marine knowledge by adapting to the ocean environment. They are also known as ‘Eco-Feminists’ because they played a major role in supporting the family and formed a powerful female community.

The diving practice seems to have begun before the period of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, judging from the fact that Jeju had a record of contributing pearls to the King. Jeju topography written by Lee Gun in 1629 recorded that Haenyeo harvested abalones and further records of haenyeo exist in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty and they have also been noted in literature since 1105.

The life of haeneyo begins when a girl turns 15 or 16 after receiving training in swimming and muljil (which refers to the actual work of underwater harvest), and their practice continues until the age of 60 or older. Physical conditions such as a high lung capacity, ability to withstand water pressure, and capacity to adjust to cold water are needed. Jeju haenyeo have accumulated their skills and wisdom over the years by learning the effective use of physical strength and knowledge of the ocean from senior haenyeo.

Please visit for additional information on haenyeo and the exhibition.

Korean Cultural Service NY

Inaugurated in 1979, the Korean Cultural Service New York (KCSNY) is a branch of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) of the Republic of Korea. Under the authority of the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in New York, KCSNY works to promote cultural arts exchange and stimulate interest in Korean culture through various opportunities. KCSNY provides diverse activities including exhibitions, concerts, film festivals, and educational programs. KCSNY is located at 460 Park Avenue (at 57th Street), New York City.