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  • Writer's picturedonnylaja

gifted girl

Min-jeong lives on the outskirts, and has to walk through town to get to the family home. [naked girl seen walking away, carrying her bookbag over her shoulder, soles of her feet muddy] As noted, the Asian mind is not offended by nudity, but it is unusual to see someone walking down the public street entirely without clothing. [people waving to girl as she passes] However the townspeople have gotten used to the sight. Min-jeong is well liked, though very quiet.

[inside kitchen, naked girl helping her mother cook dinner, small children playing in background] Min-jeong is the oldest of six children and like any dutiful eldest daughter, plays “assistant Mom”. [eating with rest of family, sitting around a low table, breasts wiggle as she cleans off sister’s chin with a napkin] She helps her younger siblings with their homework. As you can see, she is left-handed -- apparently the only left-handed person in the entire village. [sitting with little kids, checking their work]

[mother speaking, shy and halting] “Min-jeong was always . . . a quiet girl. She was always very modest. She . . . didn’t even like having her arms bare in the summer, no matter how hot it got. In the public showers she always wore a swimsuit. She became . . . even more quiet . . . when they took all her clothes away . . . She cried at first. But she knows . . . her . . . duty to the people and doesn’t complain. . .” [camera pans back to show her husband next to her] “We are very proud of her.”

[old, stern-looking man in uniform] [narrator] This is Mr. Son Ji-sun, the local commissar in charge of the Haenyeo Project. Among his many duties is to ensure compliance with the rule that Min-jeong remain stripped at all times, though with such a conscientious girl, his inspection is merely a daily formality. [man in uniform enters small, crowded bedroom, children stand at attention, including Min-jeong; camera shows blanketless bed, next to smaller beds with blankets; he opens closet] [narrator] No, no clothes in her closet. [camera pans down to empty floor] No shoes or other footwear either. Very good, Min-jeong!

[camera pans along school building, then in classroom, naked girl in front row, other students in uniform] [woman in worker’s garb, behind desk, speaks] “Min-jeong has to spend four days a week diving, but even so, her grades are excellent. She is a joy to have around. Though I wish she’d talk more.” [smiles] [naked girl with the four other Haenyeo in their shifts, walking down school hallway] [narrator] The other Haenyeo know Min-jeong is a star, but there is no jealousy among them. The nearly naked girls, and the totally naked girl, are the best of friends.

[rocky shore seen previously] This is the north beach, where the water is deeper and the underwater prizes more valuable. It is reserved for Min-jeong’s dives.

[young woman in business suit approaching, with elderly man in flowing robes] [narrator] On the south shore, Madam Kim and Madam Park instruct the other Haenyeo. Min-jeong, however, has learned all they can teach her. Here on the north shore, a different emphasis is required. This is Madam Hin Ho-sang, professor of human physiology at Pyongyang People’s University. [woman in business suit speaks, looking out at the shore] “To harvest here, the girl has to go to deeper waters, which are colder. Also she has to hold her breath longer. Resistance to cold is an acquired trait. That is why Min-jeong has to be naked at all times, so that her body adjusts to the elements.” [old man in robes] [narrator] This is the local shaman, Koy khanh; one must remember that in North Korea elements of Buddhist and shamanistic practices are officially approved. [old man’s voice] “Min-jeong is a unique individual. The fact that she is left-handed, in a right-handed town, is illustrative. It shows her inner strength. Everyone has in some measure yin and yang. Yin is passive, but yang is aggressive, active. To master the ability to withstand cold one’s yang essence has to be encouraged, strengthened. Professor Hin and I work together to increase the girl’s resistance. She is a very good learner.” [professor nods in agreement]

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