Brenda Paik Sunoo’s Jeju Grannies of the Sea wins IMOW top honors

American-Korean photographer Brenda Paik Sunoo took top honors from the International Museum of Women in their contest for a call for visual media that told the story of women and their lives from all over the world.

Sunoo’s story “Jeju Grannies of the Sea,” was the overall fan favorite of Picturing Power & Potential: A Project of Economica that was featured at IMOW’s website.


“Jeju Grannies of the Sea” features portraits of strong, elderly women divers in Jeju Island, Korea. Here are just a few of the comments from’s site about Brenda’s Work:

    “Impresionante!! An incredibly powerful message, especially for those in countries … where age prejudice is becoming more and more acceptable!” –LM Cruz-Osmos, Puerto Rico

    “These women harvest the bounty of the sea in a totally sustainable manner. They are my heroes.” –Sherrinthesea, South Korea

    “Speaking as a diver I can honestly say how amazing it is what these women do.” –Chris Miller, United States


From IMOW:

The women divers of Jeju Island (known as haenyeo) are unique and rare workers. For centuries, they have harvested seaweed and shellfish at depths of 20 meters, holding their breath for as long as two minutes without any equipment other than their rubber suits, masks and nets.

The Korean women divers of Jeju Island have faced the tempestuous tides of history and struggle for economic survival. Their intimate relationship to the land and sea, their shaman beliefs, and their communal village life have kept them protected from modern pressures. In return, many of the haenyeo live a life of purpose and resilience well into their 90s. They illuminate a steady, fearless course and most of all, an enduring legacy.


About the Artist

Brenda Paik Sunoo is a third-generation Korean-American writer and photojournalist based in Orange County, California. She and her husband lived and worked in Hanoi, Vietnam from 2002 to 2009. During that period, she also spent 7 months living on Jeju Island in order to conduct interviews and photograph the lives of these aging women divers known as haenyeo.

Her book Moon Tides: Jeju Island Grannies of the Sea will be published by Seoul Selection this Fall. Other books by the author/photojournalist are Seaweed and Shamans: Inheriting the Gifts of Grief and Vietnam Moment.

Brenda’s work will be featured across, and she’ll receive a Women’s Human Rights gift package that includes gifts from IMOW and partner organizations including Camfed, Tilonia, and CARE.