BUSAN, South Korea — The ocean is like a “mother’s embrace”, says Kim Jung-ja, a South Korean who free-dives without oxygen, wearing a black wet suit, mask and fins to pick by hand abalone, sea cucumber and other marine life that she takes to market.
Now she wonders whether the traditional occupation she has pursued for more than 60 years, as one of the haenyeo, or “sea women”, will change forever, after Japan began discharging into the Pacific radioactive water from its Fukushima nuclear plant.
“Please help us,” she pleaded. “Please do not discharge.”
Kim, 73, whose mother taught her to dive at age 10, says she and many among her dwindling community in the southe…