Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Haenyeo (women free divers) | UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

I simply love covering UNESCO site and I am lucky to be able to cover Korea’s UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity – Haenyeo; the Women Free Diver. I remembered seeing it on TV that created my curiosity to know more about them. Being a dive myself (not that I like diving) I know how tough it can be but what they did is free diving, meaning their capability of holding breath underwater is amazing. One I will definitely fail.

While I was in Jeju, I saw a place where the equipment of these female divers was kept. This make me realise how determine they are to earn a living with just a wetsuit, harpoons, net basket with styrofoam ball to keep the nets afloat. Seaweed, abalone, claim, sea cucumber, sea urchin and squid are what they catch to sell.

I was told that this amazing ladies are able to hold their breath for 2 long minute or perhaps more, and that they have been diving since 7 years old and perfecting their skill by the time they hit their jubilee age. 20 meters is the deepest depth they usually descend to. With the world changing rapidly, there are fewer and fewer Haenyeo in the island of of Jeju as compared to in the 1960s; there are an estimation of 23,000 female divers. 

In order to preserve this eroding art and tradition the Jeju government spent $6.5 million funding these female divers’ wetsuit and insurance. As many has come to realised that it is a lucrative tourist attraction upon the UNESCO designated haenyeo a Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016. With this world recognition, the female dives are appreciated and valued as Korea’s national treasure.

Click HERE for more details on UNESCOrecognition on Haenyeo (female divers) under the Intangible Cultural Heritageof Humanity. 

Aside from all this info gathered, one thing that made me wonders – WHY WOMAN?

Well, this is what I found out. Aside from the fact that the fishing method has existed as far back as the 6th century and yes, the number female has outnumbered male 12 centuries down the road. It is said that the reason (i) lesser numbers of men on the island and, (ii) us women’s reserves body fat is great than men (like seriously, should I feel proud or laugh. Am so confused) thus, able to handle cold water better (macam walrus pulak rasanya). Having said that, to be fair to both gender, while the women earn a living and do the hard part, their husbands would wait on the shores to help with the catch and sorting them out. Works out well for both parties, I guess.

Photo All Rights Reserved :  Photographer (John Doe)-Korea Tourism Organization

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