Since 1970, the South Korean government has engaged in an overhaul of the economy of Jeju Island, moving from agriculture and fishing industries to a now-dominant tourism sector. This paper takes up one of the surprise elements of that shift, the social veneration of a class of divers called the Haenyeo, or sea-women. This veneration, performed primarily through photography and specifically photography of their face, has produced thousands of photographic depictions, many of which center obsessively on the face of the divers. These facial portraits are more than a convention or portrait motif, they have become the central analytic for the description of these images, and in turn, these women. This paper will describe the dynamics embedded in this faciality and how it acts to distribute to social relation of tourist and diver, mainlander and islander, and how it defines the divers bodies as a kind of image reflecting both the historical relations between the mainland and island cultures and their own gendered physical suffering. Moving between an analysis of the photographs these divers by Kim Hyungsun and depictions officially produced and sanctioned by the Korean Tourism authority, I will describe how the production process structures the circulation and force of these images and uses photographic conventions and folk theories of representation to create a special form of labor, image work.
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