▲ Jeju Haenyeo: Stewards of the Sea is published by Jeju Sea Grant Center
"Jeju Haenyeo: Stewards of the Sea," the first English handbook on Jeju haenyeo (diving women), has been published by Jeju Sea Grant Center. The book, designed and edited by The Jeju Weekly, was written by Dr. Anne Hilty.
Professor Byung Gul Lee, director of Jeju Sea Grant Center, says in the foreword that Jeju haenyeo have yet to be fully appreciated and the book will increase international recognition of their unique culture.
"This book is intended to be a guide book for studying and understanding Jeju 's female-oriented spiritual culture. In that aspect, I sincerely hope this book will aid in the UNESCO inscription of Haenyeo culture as a world intangible heritage, and becomes one of the first milestones in understanding how Jeju haenyeo culture can shape Jeju 's historical identity. I believe that the visionary builds what dreamers imagined. We all are ambitious visionaries, and I am confident that our shared dream will come true,” writes Lee.
Now dividing her time between Jeju and Hong Kong, American Hilty lived for eight years in Korea, with four of those years spent living on Jeju and researching its culture.
Hilty said the research process was extremely rewarding, as was being able to, as Honorary Ambassador of Jeju, contribute toward future UNESCO inscription.
She also singled out the joy of working with the haenyeo themselves: “observing [them] in multiple locations, going through the summer school program, talking with them (via a local interpreter), and attending numerous ceremonies.”
▲ Author Dr. Anne Hilty. Photo courtesy EastWest Psyche, Ltd.
There were some challenges, however, not least of which was the lack of English source material and the struggle to be “taken seriously as a foreign researcher of an especially indigenous topic.” She hopes the final effort can bolster not only the UNESCO bid, but preservation efforts in general.
“This book has a wide global distribution including UNESCO itself, and has the potential to inform far beyond the limitations of the UNESCO application process,” she said.
Seoul applied in March 2014 for haenyeo culture to be inscribed as UNESCO world intangible cultural heritage, yet the weight of applications and Korea’s relatively high number of prior inscriptions (16) meant it failed in the early stages. It will be eligible for reconsideration next year.
The book, illustrated beautifully by photographs from Brenda Paik Sunoo and Sung-Eun Lee, is divided into two sections: 1. Haenyeo Profession and II. Haenyeo Decline and Preservation.
The first section sets the historical context of the profession, exploring such themes as migratory diving work and the role of the haenyeo in the anti-Japanese resistance. There are also comprehensive documentary data on haenyeo life such as training, tools, diving rules and designated diving areas.
The second section tracks the recent decline in haenyeo numbers and looks ahead to preservation efforts and changing societal attitudes to the diving women.
The voices of the haenyeo themselves are included in six personal profiles, three in each book section. Two box insets are also included: ”The Science of Haenyeo” in section one, and ”Haenyeo: Then & Now” in section two.
The book is not on general sale and only a limited number have been distributed locally and internationally. A number of e-book formats have been made available, however, including pdf Mobi, EPUB and others. Click here for a pdf copy.
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