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a working day at the beach

[back to the beach, closeup of the tent, then flap opens, camera comes inside] [narrator] This is the “tenteu”, the traditional tent where Haenyeo prepare for their dives. [with the help of Ms. Kim and Ms. Park, the four girls take off their shifts, then stand naked as white cloth thongs are threaded through their crotches and around their waists; small stove in background] The Asian mind is not offended by nudity, and there is no sense of hiding their bodies as the girls tie on their “gajug”, the only clothing for a traditional Haenyeo. [the girls turn around as Ms. Kim and Ms. Park make sure their gajug are secure; their breasts range from almost nonexistent to medium size] Near-nudity is advantageous in swimming and diving, and also maneuvering in tight spaces around underground formations.

[closeup of the stove] The scorching heat inside the tent is to prepare the girls for the immersion in freezing water to follow. [four girls, wearing scuba masks now, each naked except for gajug and carrying a basket and a long knife, pick their way with bare feet over the rocks toward the water, with Ms. Kim and Ms. Park watching from behind]

[heavily-clad professor in fishing boots, up to his ankles in water, brings up thermometer as nearly naked girls walk past him] “Eleven degrees Celsius.”

[the girls slowly walk into the water, up to their waists to which ropes have been tied] [narrator] And so the dive begins.

[cutaways to overhead view of girls swimming in clear water ten feet down, arms and legs moving sinuously, picking at rocks with knives, then diving deeper] [narrator] Their average dive is about thirty feet, which is the depth at which the valuable harvest begins to be found. [two girls about to submerge, giving off strange whistling sound] [voice of Ms. Kim] “A special breathing technique allows for longer submersions. These two girls can now stay down three minutes. When they want to come up, or when their basket is full, they tug on the rope so that they can be brought up faster . . . They have learned very well.”

[setting sun] [adults and children arriving on the beach, not going down to the rocks but staying on the sand] [narrator] Later that day, at the end of their tenth dive, the girls are taken home by their families for a well-deserved rest. [girls emerging from their last dive, shivering, their knees wobbling, holding their baskets in their shaking hands, making their way to the tent, waving to their families who wave back] Needless to say their families are very proud that their daughters have been selected for this project and are achieving so much. [girls go back into their tent] Shivering, of course, is part of a Haenyeo’s life, but the girls warm up quickly back in their tent before they go home. [inside tent, the girls, having taken off their gajug, sitting naked around the stove, rubbing their arms, massaging their feet, as Ms. Kim ladles out something in handleless cups] A small helping of warm rice wine helps. [girls drink and smile, talking to each other]

[narrator] Ae-cha talks about today’s catch. [naked girl, sitting cross-legged, drinking from cup, little nipples shaking, hard as pebbles] “I b - brought up twenty abalones t - today, twelve s - sea urchins and a lot of c - conches.” [narrator] Yung-sook one-ups her. [another naked girl, shaking off her shivering, her larger breasts bouncing side to side, looking pointy due to her pale erect nipples] “Twenty-four abalones by me!” [Ae-cha responds] “You think you c - can outdo Min-jeong?” [all four girls laugh; Ms. Kim and Ms. Park with amused smiles]

[girls emerging from tent, with their shifts on, picking over the rocks with bare feet, then walking comfortably onto the sand as they join their families] [mother holding baby, speaks] “At first we were concerned, with Yung-sook wearing so little clothing in the cold, but she likes it, she’s a star in the school, and we’re proud of her, helping the village out like this.” [narrator] What the girls have caught today will probably net about 500 won at the local cooperative. [girls wearing nothing but shifts climbing into jeep-like vehicles with their fully clothed families]

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