Author: Ok-Kyung Pak, 176 pages, 7 geographical maps, 134 photographs.
Published by the Fondation Culturelle Musée Barbier-Mueller.
On Jeju Island, located at the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula, jamnyo (women divers) meet in the early morning on the shore to enter the sea together. Fifteen days per month they carry out this ritual of free diving, risking their life, staying in the water for between four and seven hours to support their families.
Through the study of the kinship-exchange system (kwendang), and the community and value system of the jamnyo, the anthropologist Ok-Kyung Pak describes and analyses a society “centred on women” in which the women divers’ shamanic rituals for the sea goddess, who offers them her protection, coexist with the influence of the mainland’s neo-Confucianism. In addition, she traces the various steps leading to the formation of this social model promoting the protection of and the symbiosis with nature. This study is all the more relevant as the number of jamnyo divers is shrinking, due to industrial development and the oceans pollution.