While in South Korea, Juniper and I had the opportunity to visit Jeju, the volcanic island province located just off the southern tip of the country. It is incredibly beautiful. And interestingly, in a country that is extremely patriarchal, where women are very much submissive to their husbands, one of the most distinct aspects of Jeju (probably due to the relative isolation of the island) is its matriarchal family structure. On this South Korean island, it's the women who rule the sea. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is the haenyeo, the mermaids of Jeju.
These "women of the sea" are the heads of families because they bring home the bacon. Er.... shellfish. They earn their living from free diving year-round, into the extremely cold waters of the East China Sea, without scuba gear, in order to forage for abalone, conch, urchin, octopus and a myriad of other shellfish from the ocean floor, sometimes as deep as 60 feet. They haul their goods back to the shore and sell them to tourists who are eager to devour the fresh catch right there on the rocks of the shoreline.
(at about :46 you can hear one or two of the haenyeo coaxing a potential customer, "genchana, mashisoyo!" Translation: It's okay, it's delicious!)
And probably the most badass part of this culture is that most of the haenyeo are over 60 years old. Many are grandmothers. They could retire if they wanted, but they prefer the adventure and the sense of community it brings them. Now that is what I call sisterhood!