▲ Haenyeo at work Photo courtesy Jeju Tourism Organisation
It has been a long journey, but Jeju's haenyeo have finally made it onto the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, at a ceremony in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the free diving women, along with ten other cultural practices from countries around the world, were added to the list.
The Haenyeo are famed for their ability to dive in water up to 10 meters deep without any breathing equipment. They spend up to seven hours at a time in the water and can dive between 15 and 18 times a month.
This continues even throughout the cold winter months. In fact, the only time haenyeo don't dive is in August, to protect sealife during spawning season.
Some of the reasons stated by UNESCO for the haenyeo's inclusion are that "the traditional practice advances women's status in the community, represents the island's identity and promotes sustainability."
Currently, the majority of the haenyeo are over the age of 50. In fact, there are only 10 haenyeo in their 30's on the whole of Jeju, and none under 30.
It is hoped that the potential increase in public awareness of the haenyeo due to the bid, as well as potential funding opportunities, will help to protect the haenyeo and their unique cultural practices.
Tha haenyeo divers are actually the second cultural practice from Jeju to be added to the list. The first was the shamanic ritual of the Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut. This was inscribed onto the list in 2009.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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