Volume 17 (2014) Issue 1 Pages 001-011
During the 1960~80s Korean breath-hold women divers (haenyeo) received attention from environmental physiologists, especially Professor Suk-Ki Hong and colleagues, due to their unique ability to resist cold water wearing only a thin cotton bathing suit (so-jung-ee). Eventually, Haenyeos began to wear wetsuits to avoid severe cold stress instead of the cotton bathing suit from the mid 1970’s.With advancing social industrialization, the number of haenyeos rapidly decreased and a total of 4,507 haenyeos works as of 2013. The average age of haenyeos is 70 years old and the oldest haenyeos currently diving is 92 years old. Today, some senior haenyeos over fifty years old share the diving experiences of their youth by wearing the classic cotton bathing suits. At present it is predicted that the tradition of haenyeos could cease to exist in 10-15 years because of their aging. At this point in time, it is worth reviewing the history of haenyeos’ diving practices and acclimatization/deacclimatization to cold. The present review described the diving practices and physiology of haenyeos related to cotton bathing suits and wetsuits. Finally, we suggest interdisciplinary research on haenyeos from the viewpoint of social-environmental physiology and intangible cultural heritage.