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Mijoo Kim, a New York-based photographer, decided to document South Korea’s fearless “Sea Women” in an intimate series called The Mother of the Sea.

Referred to locally as Haenyo, these intrepid elderly women swim up to depths of 65ft (20 metres) to the ocean floor where they collect sea abalones, urchins, sea cucumbers and squid. They do so without oxygen tanks and sometimes they hold their breath for over two minutes at a time while submerged in the freezing cold waters of the Korea Strait. Many of them are over 70 years old and their numbers are slowly dwindling as young Korean women move to the mainland in search of education and employment. “These women divers are carrying on a Korean legacy and will be the last of their kind,” Kim told The Huffington Post. “They are the last generation of Haenyo.”

More info: Mijoo Kim (h/t: huffpost)

These women in South Korea are called Haenyo, which means “Sea Women”

They swim up to depths of 65ft (20 metres) to the ocean floor where they collect sea abalones, urchins, sea cucumbers and squid

They dive without oxygen tanks and sometimes hold their breath for over 2 minutes at a time

Many of the Haenyo are over 70 years old!

They dive in the Korean Strait and the water is often freezing cold

Their numbers are slowly dwindling as young Korean women move to the mainland in search of education and employment

“These women divers are carrying on a Korean legacy and will be the last of their kind,” says photographer Mijoo Kim

“They are the last generation of Haenyo”

The practice goes as far back as the 5th century

“Being a Haenyo is certainly not meant to be for the weak,” she writes

“Hence the saying in Korea, “Haenyos do the work of the dead in the land of the living””