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13 Photos: The Women of Korea’s Jagalchi Market

People say that Busan (pronounced “Pusan”) is the San Francisco of Korea.  It’s a happening city of 3.6 million people and a hub of education and commerce, but much life there remains based on the sea.

That’s very much apparent at Jagalchi Market (자갈치시장), the biggest fish market in Korea.  Fishermen steer their boats right up to the stalls to drop off the day’s catch.  On land, though, Jagalchi’s women are the driving force behind the operation.

All day long, they’re arranging sea creatures in geometric patters, hawking and haggling loudly, hanging dried fish, splashing seawater onto still-live clams and mussels.  Jagalchi’s women are all close in age, falling into the “ajumma” range–that’s the word Koreans use to describe older women who still work for a living.  And they all seem to wear a similar uniform: lots of plaid, rubber gloves, and rubber aprons.

It’s said that women have been gaining a lot of ground in long-patriarchal Korean society.  At Jagalchi, it’s remarkable to see these ajummas engaging in a traditional business–and totally running the show.

One of the images below will be published in Issue No. 13 of the photography magazine Capricious, available December 2012.  For more information on any photo, just click on it.

–Rob Bellinger and Dan Meade
November 30, 2012

Related:

The Mysteries of the Kampu Ferry, Parts I and II

The Frantic, Gruesome Heart of Tsukiji Market

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