13.092 Jeonbok Course

Cycle 13 – Item 92

7 (Thu) April 2022

Jeonbok Course


at Haenyeo Yeonhwa Halmae Jib

-Gijang, Busan, Gyeongsangbuk, Republic of Korea-

with the Family

Spring Break Holiday in Busan (Day 1)

In Busan.  My first time ever.  Our first family trip in 2 years and 5 months (previously to UAE in 2019 (see 10.301 Fish Harra)).


With Louis Le Pieux in tow, our options for accommodations were limited.  Fortunately, W found us a nice pet-friendly house through Airbnb.

Located in Gijang-gun, a region on the northeast coast of Busan Metropolitan City, about 20 km from downtown.
Biggest parking space ever.
The inner yard, as per traditional Korean house layouts – I would love to have something like this, where I could hang out, play with Louis, read, drink, BBQ.
Bedroom 1.
Bedroom 2.
Dining/family room, with a queen-size bed.
Kitchen, with a long breakfast table.
The view of Idong Harbor from the kitchen window.
The view of Idong Port from the roof.
Idong Port is located on the northern tip of the harbor, shown at the top left of the map (from the few videos that I’ve seen of tsunami disasters, the water seems to hit so suddenly and come in so rapidly that people just run like crazy in the opposite direction, without regard to evacuation routes).


Walking Louis, I came upon these haenyeo on the other side of the harbor.

Haenyeo is a type of Korean fisherwoman.  The term means “sea (hae)(해) + woman (nyeo)(녀).”  Wearing wet suits + weights + masks + fins, haenyeo free-dive to the ocean floor to harvest various seafoods, most famously abalone.  The tradition dates back to the 17th century in Jeju, where haenyeo are recognized on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

They were negotiating with a man who appeared to be a local seafood wholesaler.

According to sources gathered on Wikipedia, 98% of haenyo today are over 50 years old, compared to only 14% in 1970.  Indeed, historical renditions and modern-day tourist brochures typically depict haenyo as pretty young girls in white bathing suits, despite current reality.

I’d be curious to know what most of the women did for a living before they became haenyeo, and what inspired the shift.

The catch of the day (every day?) was sea cucumbers.

In 1986, I first encountered haenyo on a trip to Jeju.  We were on a tour boat with a glass floor, through which we could watch a haenyo dive a few meters down to sandy bottom, pick up a sea snail, then wave to to us.  When she climbed back on board, she cut out the snail from the shell and offered it to us to eat, along with a chogochujang dip.  She was probably in her 60s, but looked to me like 160.

This post would’ve been so much better if I’d asked where we could go to eat these same sea cucumbers for dinner, and actually ate them.

Funny to think that these haenyo, perhaps in their late 50s or early 60s today, would’ve been in their 20s in 1986, though likely not yet in the haenyeo business at that time.

Didn’t stick around to see what happened to the remaining 2 buckets.

Objectively, sea cucumbers are rather gross, whether eaten raw or cooked, even though I kinda like them, both ways.  In a future post, I look forward to writing about sea cucumbers in greater detail.


Gijang Haenyeo Chon is a local marketplace.  Stalls and restaurants offering seafood, some/most of it presumably caught by haenyeo.

A quick internet search suggested that most restaurants served the same food, same level of quality, same price.

Almost all the restaurants included the terms “haenyeo” and “halmae (granny)” in their names.

Haenyeo Yeonhwa Halmae Jib is a Korean restaurant.  Specializes in seafood, with emphasis on abalone dishes.

Looked kinda like an American diner.
By the time we left, 1 additional party would come to dine.

I did zero research for the trip, including the meals.  On all of our overseas trips, as well as local camping trips, I’ve done 99% of the planning, as well as 99% of implementation.  So this time, I left everything up to W.

We ordered 3 portions of the full course special, total of 90,000 won.

The food was pretty good.  We ordered the jeonbok table d’hôte comprising 4 courses: (1) modeum hoe (assorted sashimi), (2) modeum jjim (assorted steamed/parboiled), (3) jeonbok gui (stir-fried abalone), (4) jeonbok juk (abalone porridge).  Frankly, I didn’t see any difference with the food available in Seoul.  Anyway, it was fun, a perfectly contextualized – if touristy – inaugural dinner in the port city of Busan.

Hoe (clockwise from bottom): abalone + sea squirt + spoon worm + octopus + sea cucumber + sea snail (center)
Jjim (clockwise from bottom right): octopus + cockle + shrimp
Daeseon Soju – available only in Busan!

In retrospect, I should’ve focused more on the sea cucumbers.


(See also BOOZE)


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