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A Big risk in the history of hanyeo: The number of hanyeo is decreasing
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승인 2013.11.25  14:09:06
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[This article is written by a JDC Junior Journalist. The JDC Junior Journalist program is an educational project sponsored by Jeju Free International City Development Corporation (JDC). JDC Junior Journalist articles are only briefly edited by mentors before publishing.]

When people think about jeju, most of people think not only rocks, wind and women as the symbolization of jeju but also water, pristine beaches and jeju’s traditional women divers: the hanyeo. Hanyeo, called the mothers of the sea, can holds their breath without any equipment and collect marine creatures such as abalone and top shells to sell and feed her family. Hanyeo dive without any equipment for more than 3 minutes. Many people think that the Hanyeo have their own special technique to hold their breath. But it’s not true. Hanyeo have been able to hold their breath for long time due to knowing that she has to earn money for her children. But the average age of the Hanyeo is 69 years old and the number of Hanyeo are decreasing dramatically. There is a big risk that the Hanyeo might soon disappear.

The chair man of the Hanyeo protection organization, Lee han yeong said “ It is a very serious problem that the number of Hanyeo is decreasing dramtically. The number of Hanyeo is 4574 and more than 47% of hanyeoes are over 70 years old. I decided to show people what Hanyeo exactly pick up from the ocean and asked two hanyeoes to perform it in the acquarium.” He added “ I’m from Seoul and I came to Jeju because I thought the hanyeo was the best diver free diver, and that they had a special technique for holding their breathe for a long time. But I was wrong. While I was taking a Hanyeo class, I came to know what makes hanyeos great divers. It is the mother’s instinctive love. But, now the lofty love is about to disappear. Only jeju residents can be hanyeo but very few people on Jeju want to be hanyeos. It is very urgent to promote the hanyeo lifestyle to the jeju people and increase the benefits to hanyeo from government.”

Park su ran who has been a hanyeo for 55 years said “ I’m very proud of myself as a hanyeo. I think it is a good idea that foreigners and other area residents learn what a hanyeo does in hanyeo school.” She wanted lots of jeju residents learn in hanyeo shool because only jeju residents can be hanyeo. Now benefits for hanyeo have gotten better, but the government should create more benefits for the hanyeo not only by giving a diving suit to the hanyeo to increase the number of hanyeo, but also making town fishing banks that can increase the incomes, promoting hanyeo and so on . “I don’t want this to be the end of the Hanyeo,” She said.

The mother’s instinctive love created the job hanyeo but the job is endangered to disappear now. If there isn’t a special policy for the hanyeo,they will disappear in the history of jeju, within 20 years. The government should make new policies that can increase the number of hanyeo to improve the hanyeo’s hard work, unsustainable incomes and poor working environment. People, especially in jeju, should have interests in the hanyeos and try to learn what the hanyeo does. The bright future of the hanyeo will be made by not only the government’s policy but also jeju residents efforts to increase the number of hanyeo.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
All materials on this site are protected under the Korean Copyright Law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published without the prior consent of Jeju Weekly.
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