UNESCO lists Jeju female divers as cultural heritage

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : December 1, 2016, 08:58 | Updated : December 1, 2016, 08:58

[Courtesy of Jeju Island]

"Haenyeo", or female divers living on South Korea's southern resort island of Jeju, were listed as UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage Thursday for showing the empowerment of women and a region's unique cultural identity.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization added "Haenyeo" to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at a meeting n Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage committee said the Haenyeo culture shows a region's unique cultural identity and cultural diversity.

The listing is expected to raise awareness of the importance of jobs for women and promote communication with other communities with traditions similar to Haenyeo, the world organization said.

The island used to have up to 23,000 female divers in 1965, but the number has decreased gradually to 4,337 last year despite financial support and other benefits.

Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong welcomed UNESCO's move, saying Haenyeo, the traditional symbol of women's empowerment, would help the island attract more tourists.

"Haenyeo is the mother and spiritual pillar of all residents in Jeju," he said. "We must preserve and inherit their life as our crucial cultural heritage along with the natural assets of Jeju."

Jeju regards Haenyeo as its leading symbol and crucial element in its campaign to become Asia's most prominent tourist destination.

The semi-tropical volcanic island is already a hot place for vacationers, receiving more than two million Chinese visitors annually.

Helped by Beijing's eased restrictions on overseas travel, Jeju has emerged as a perfect place for a vacation by Chinese tourists because of its geographical proximity and a special visa-free program that would allow them to stay freely for up to 30 days.

Aju News Lim Chang-won = cwlim34@ajunews.com
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