Five out of 10 haenyeo are over 70; 2,141 are active in Jeju-si, 100 fewer than last year.
A study released on Jan. 21 regarding Jeju Island’s traditional diving women working in the Jeju-si region has found that half are now over the age of 70. Of the 2,141 haenyeo registered and actively collecting marine products as an occupation, 100 retired or ceased working in the past 12 months.
The demographics for Jeju-si haenyeo are as follows: 10 are in their 30s, 32 in their 40s, 228 in their 50s, 690 in their 60s, 848 in their 70s, and 333 over the age of 80. Some 1,181 haenyeo are over the age of 70, or 55.1% of the total.
The oldest haenyeo is 91 and works in Seogwang-ri in Udo-myeon, while the youngest is 32 and works in Iho-dong.
Given the ageing population, there are governmental and non-governmental plans and programs designed to help preserve their traditions and skills for future generations.
The Culture of Jeju Haenyeo (women divers) of the Republic of Korea was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016.
According to the official UNESCO website: “Designated by the provincial government as representing the island’s character and people’s spirit, the culture of Jeju haenyeo has contributed to the advancement of women’s status in the community and promoted environmental sustainability with its eco-friendly methods and community involvement in management of fishing practices.”