As Jeju Island’s women divers age, their rich haenyeo tradition is in danger of being lost. The reason is simple: it’s a very difficult and dangerous job, so few new haenyeo are being added to their ranks.
To protect the heritage of the haenyeo, a number of local and international efforts are underway to ensure the survival of their techniques and traditions.
The latest step in this effort is being decided next week in Ethiopia, when UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage convenes from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2.
Representatives from 24 nations will review some 37 nominees for inclusion in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The culture of Jeju’s haenyeo is among the candidates for 2016.
If Jeju’s women divers are added to the list, this would bring them one step closer to having their living heritage preserved.
The UNESCO designation is expected to increase public interest and education, as well as lead to new funding and legislation to protect and support the haenyeo’s cultural practices.
At present, some 336 such cultural heritages of humanity are on the UNESCO list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Editor’s note: After the results are announced, we’ll have an update on this story. If you have any comments regarding the inclusion of haenyeo culture in the UNESCO list, please let us know at any of the SNS links below.
Did you know? The 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has been ratified by 171 states. This is its 11th session. The nominations for the 2016 Representative List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity include: China: The Twenty-Four Solar Terms, knowledge in China of time and practices developed through observation of the sun’s annual motion Cuba: Rumba in Cuba, a festive combination of music and dances and all the practices associated India: Yoga Japan: Yama, Hoko, Yatai, float festivals in Japan Nigeria: Argungu international fishing and cultural festival Saudi Arabia: Almezmar, drumming and dancing with sticks Sri Lanka: Traditional art of string puppetry in Sri Lanka