The first lady of Pyongchang

Mrs Baek Bokhee aka ‘mama’ is 50% of the force that runs the 700 village. She has been running the circus together with her husband since 2002 and is a phenomenal chef, bus driver, the chief of bookings, and now also an Eyes as Big as Plated delegate!

Mama is proud of the enterprise they have built together over the last 14 years and having witnessed this powerhouse of a woman in action over the past week, we had to ask for her recipe for success. The recipe remains a secret, as mama humbly thanked everybody around her for bringing all the good energy to keep her going. Our translator explained to us how it is not part of the older generation’s mindset to focus on themselves, but on how they relate to others in a more collective consciousness.

Mama is a water person living in the mountains and for her future hobby she would love to become a ‘haenyeo’, a ‘sea woman’ who freedive for shellfish and seaweed. The only view of water in her area is the meandering river in the valley, so we headed to the tallest mountaintop in Pyongchang for a well earned break with a view.

We descended to the Potato Blossom center straight from the shoot, saw a dazzling folk dance performance and sat down to watch an extremely fitting documentary about sea women. Breathing underwater (directed by KO Hee-young) follows a community of free diving haenyeos. For these strong and independent women life is not only about holding your breath, but also about containing and controlling their desire – a few too many seconds under water to catch that last abalone might prove fatal. This balancing act translates easily to contemporary Korean women trying to combine progressive independence with tradition.

© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

Outdoor studio at the 700 village © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

Jiwon Kim standing in for mama © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

Final touches on the road © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

Patrinia Scabiosaefolia, the material for mama’s wearable sculpture was lovingly collected by her husband while we ran around the village on other errands. © Karoline Hjorth Riitta Ikonen

© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

This mountaintop goes by the name of ‘flight place’ for obvious reasons… © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

You can also pick this flower before it blooms, dry it and use the stem of it as a side dish in marinade. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

Meditating on the water below. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

Pungmul is a Korean folk music tradition that includes drumming, dancing and singing. It is rooted in the farming culture and is played as part of farm work on rural holidays. We will follow up with a video for a fuller experience of this eye and ear shattering show! © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

Mama bus driver slipped into her bathing suit before anyone could even say S-E-A. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

Beach babes in Kyoung Po Beach in Gang Neung – Papa’s home town © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

One comment

  1. Pingback: The invincible Mr Jeong | Eyes as Big as Plates

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