The New Haenyeo
REBIRTH ON THE YELLOW SEA
1961 Ministry of Information
[narrator, deep authoritative voice, though with some wavering due to quality of film]
The village of Yuho-ri. [panoramic sweep of village, boats, harbor] One of many innocent towns badly bombed by capitalist forces during the recent war. [farmers using primitive hoes in field] Farming, though improved by Lysenko’s techniques, barely is adequate to support the population of three thousand.
[outside view of school, with students filing in] Of course, the People’s Struggle continues with the new generation, through rigorous schooling, socialist analysis, along with the necessary disciplines of science, language and technical arts. [panorama of large classroom, teacher at blackboard, students in neat rows in their school uniforms, writing at their desks] Three hundred boys and girls attend Kim Il-sung School where they are developed in mind and body. [in gym uniforms, doing calisthenics]
[large outdoor assembly, rows of students listening to speaker in front of North Korean flag] However if one looks closely one sees something different about this school. [rear panning closeup of students’ legs and feet properly crossed under their chairs, dark pants or skirts, dark socks, black shoes . . . now a girl with her legs and feet bare . . . a few seats later, another . . . pan to another row, then another . . .]
Yes, that’s right, these girls are not wearing a uniform, in fact not much at all. [Two girls walking down stairs, wearing nothing except a loose thigh-length shift, their bare legs and feet contrasting with the fully uniformed girls next to them, apparently they are all friends, smiling and talking] These four girls go about in this simple covering all day, and intend to do so right through the Korean winter. They are part of the People’s Project to revive what was once the main industry in this area: pearl diving. [a traditional print of pearl diving women]
[older male professor in empty lecture hall, speaking to camera] “Pearl diving, and not only that, diving for delicacies such as abalone and oysters, was the anchor of the coastal economy. It was done by women because they were better able to withstand the cold water of the Yellow Sea. Unfortunately most of the women had to be conscripted in recent wars. Diving requires special breathing techniques which must be taught” [cut to professor pointing to drawing of lungs inside bare female torso, with protruding breasts] “so without teachers, that part of the economy disappeared.”
[narrator] [photo of two old women in workers’ garb walking down street] There are two former pearl divers still in Yuho-ri, Binna Park and Chae-won Kim. Unfortunately they were heavy smokers in their youth and their lungs can no longer support the stresses of diving. [now from the rear, walking away from the camera] However they are assigned to train the girls who have qualified as the new generation of pearl divers, or as they are called, the Haenyeo.
[one of the old women speaking, then a pan of a rocky beach, with a small tent coming into view] [narrator] Madam Kim describes what is required of a Haenyeo. [close-up of girls’ bare toes grabbing rocks as they make their way across the shore] [old, cough-y voice] “Slippers are impractical. Feet must be made tough. That is why the girls never wear anything on their feet, day or night.” [pan of the sea] “Also they must be able to withstand the cold water. The temperature of the water here is about twelve degrees Celsius, and even colder at depths. So to acclimate them they are to wear nothing more than the shift, even at night, with no blankets.”
[narrator] This may seem cruel but in fact girls’ bodies are very adaptable at this age and they have taken to it. In fact sometimes they complain that when they come in from recess that the school is too hot! [playground at recess, girls and boys throwing soccer ball around, all in winter coats, breath coming out in clouds, with the four bare-legged and barefoot girls playing amidst the rest, smiling; occasionally their shifts fly up and flashes of pubic hair are seen, no one notices]
[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]
[panorama of the school] As students come up through the grades, further classes of new Haenyeo will be formed under the tutelage of Madam Kim and Madam Park. But we have not told the whole story.
[panorama of a different shore, rockier, but with same town in background] There is one new Haenyeo who has excelled to the point where she is now a Haenyeo-byeol — a “super Haenyeo”. She can go to greater depths and emerge with the best, largest and most valuable oysters, abalone, clams, and even little octopuses and sea cucumbers, which can only be obtained in the waters off the other shore, north of town. For this she has been assigned especially rigorous training. [side view of outdoor assembly seen before] Note the girl near the end of the row. [camera zooms in, grainy image of side view of girl] Yes that’s right, she is not even wearing a shift. She lives her life totally naked. This is little Min-jeong, mentioned before. We will now tell her story.
[film breaks; white screen and sound of film flapping on reel; darkness and silence; lights go up as A-V personnel scramble to reset the projector and re-thread the film]
[lights dim, repaired tape starts running]
[narrator, voice garbled at first, then clearer, though still wavering due to tape quality] . . . see another school day ends for a special student.
[girls and boys leaving school, a couple of girls in shifts with bare legs and feet, then finally a completely naked girl, seemingly trying to hide, then separating off with a couple of fully clothed friends and walks down the dirt road, wet from today’s rain]
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]
[campfire, various kettles, boxes, sticks on the sand above the rocky shore, two tall posts in front of the fire about five feet apart; a small group of fully-clothed girls and boys, all in jackets and boots, together with naked Min-jeong, setting up the fire and other activity; Prof. Hin and Koy stand and watch] [narrator] While the other Haenyeo are starting dives on the south shore, Min-jeong begins her day on the north shore, assisted by her crew. [camera pans down to show feet in motion, Min-jeong’s sandy bare feet among the boots, a low table with various blades and knives] [narrator] The “Haenyeo-byeol” has special tools for her special work.
[two boys pour pails of water over Min-jeong’s head, water coursing over her body, as she stands on a small grate] [narrator] There is no tent for this Haenyeo; instead her body is heated by warm water, poured on her by her classmates Kin and Ho. [boy proudly holding a large ginger root carved like a plug, with fancy designs on the outside] [narrator] This is Hon zhu, who made this little ginger sculpture. It is a weekly project in art class; this week he was the winner.
[rear view of naked girl bending over, legs spread, bare feet perched on widely-separated rocks, toes curling over the edges, spreading her buttocks with her hands] [narrator] The ginger sculpture has a special role. Hon zhu, this week’s winner, has the privilege of inserting it, with Professor Hin supervising. [as everyone watches girl’s anus, boy carefully pushes in ginger plug]
[Prof. Hin, interviewed previously, in her office] “The ginger root creates a mild burning sensation which creates body heat. There is a little backwater on the shore into which Min-jeong flushes out her rectum beforehand. She has learned to open her anus to accept the intrusion so that it is not painful.”
[back to naked girl bending over, boy inserting the ginger root up her butt] [voice over from Prof.] “The end of the root is flanged. Otherwise Min-jeong’s internal muscles would naturally draw it in and it would be hard to pull out.” [naked girl stands up, turns around, shy smile as everyone applauds and boy takes a jokey bow] [voiceover] “Over the course of a day’s dives we expect about half the root to dissolve through the rectal membranes, providing stimulation and heat.” [voiceover from Koy] “The ginger provokes and brings forth the child’s considerable yang energy.”
[naked girl, holding bucket, wearing diving mask, rope tied around her waist, clambers over rough rocks on way to water] [narrator] Min-jeong’s feet have to be exceptionally tough because the rocks here are sharp-edged and treacherous. Note the ginger plug in her anus which does not seem to impede her stride. [family, including siblings, waving from beach] She turns and waves at her family. [closeup of a little girl’s face] Perhaps she hopes that one day she can be a local hero like her big sister.
[naked girl submerges] [Prof. Hin, looking on, speaks] “Min-jeong can hold her breath for four minutes now, which allows dives down to 30 meters. At that depth one can find specimens of much greater size. We believe the water at that point is roughly 9 degrees Celsius, but she can withstand it for short periods, with physiological assistance.”
[underwater scene, naked girl swimming toward a colorful bank encrusted with very large oysters, abalones, sea cucumbers] [silence except for voice of narrator] A special camera lowered onto a rock allows us to see what Min-jeong sees. This is a world known only to her. [girl uses blade to cut free a large oyster, places in her basket; then moves away toward another bank] She is careful to harvest selectively to maximize new growth. [girl moves toward camera, then moves in profile, nipples hardened in the cold water, then anchoring with one foot to cut a large abalone; now she looks around] This quiet girl seems to enjoy the solitude and serenity of the undersea world. [she swims away from the camera] The yellow stream coming from behind is not urine, but runoff from the ginger root.
[camera pans to mid-afternoon sun] [dripping naked girl, shivering violently, makes her way along the rocks to the campfire area, carrying her basket and knife and stumbling at one point] [narrator] After Min-jeong’s fifth dive, her body heat needs to be replenished.
[naked girl standing in front of campfire, arms spread to grab posts to each side, legs spread, feet in buckets, adults and classmates standing around watching] Her body is warmed by the fire, and her feet placed in buckets of warm water. [Koy uses spoon to spread green substance on each nipple] A paste made of wasabi is applied, to bring out her yang energy. Notice that she is starting to sweat despite shivering only moments before.
[close-up of thick rope covered with a glistening substance] [rope is held in front of naked girl by boy who made the ginger root, and behind by a girl the same age; they raise it up to the naked girl’s crotch] Friction from a slickened rope also serves to warm up the body of this dedicated girl. [rope is raised forcefully until girl’s feet almost rise up from the buckets, then is slowly pulled back and forth, rubbing along her anus between her spread apart buttocks and up into the separated lips of her vagina] [closeup of sweating face, eyes closed, mouth gaping open] [rhythmic back and forth of rope as Koy raises his hands in prayer] [voice of Koy] “This girl takes very well to maximization of her yang.” [rear view of naked girl climbing over rocks to the water] [narrator] Five minutes later, all warmed up for dive number six!
[close-up of setting sun] [narrator] Min-jeong comes back from her last dive. [dripping naked girl approaches campfire as people applaud] And what a catch! [Prof. Hin lifts huge object from basket] [narrator] A twenty-centimeter abalone, and thirty-four oysters, each at least ten centimeters. Delicacies which will be greatly recompensed.
[at dusk, naked girl standing up again, arms stretched out to hold the posts] [narrator] One last task. All that yang energy built up over the course of the day has to be released. [closeup of Koy inserting thick, blunted stick into girl’s vagina and moving it in and out] A carved piece of camellia branch is used. [with everyone standing in a circle, girl cries out and her body jerks several times] [voiceover from Koy] “Release of yang can be violent but balance has to be restored for her health.” [after last jerk, girl’s body relaxes; another round of applause, her concave tummy heaving in and out as she catches her breath; tears flow from her eyes]
[naked girl’s head hugged by father] [narrator] A proud papa! [camera pan of cleanup around the campfire, jeep-style vehicles driving away]
[abrupt cut to man in ministerial outfit on stage, speaking to crowd, presenting medal to naked girl, with her parents, dressed in their finest, standing next to her] [narrator] It is estimated that Min-jeong’s catch accounts for 15% of the village’s entire production, measured in won. That is why she and her family recently were invited to Pyongyang where the Minister of Fisheries bestowed her with the annual Golden Sunrise Award, given to the country’s outstanding student. Of course he would not fit the pendant around her neck because that would be a form of clothing, so she held it in her hand, quickly handing it to her father. [camera shows this] For this remarkable young woman it was her first time outside her village.
[camera again pans to south shoreline] [patriotic music starts in background] [narrator] Min-jeong and the other New Haenyeo are the first of an emerging generation of girl divers who will reinvigorate the coastal economies of our People’s Republic. All praise is due to Dear Leader for conceiving, organizing and implementing this revival of traditional culture in the People’s Cause. As it grows it will revitalize this coastal area and show the capitalist warmakers that their efforts were in vain.
[swelling of patriotic music, wavering in pitch due to film quality]
[flag of North Korea]