The Korea Herald


Jeju female divers 'haenyeo' listed as FAO agricultural heritage system

By Yonhap

Published : Nov. 10, 2023 - 22:41

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This undated file photo shows a This undated file photo shows a "haenyeo," female divers who make their living harvesting seafood by hand from the ocean floor without breathing equipment on South Korea's southern island of Jeju. (Yonhap)

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has designated a unique fishing style of female divers on South Korea's southern island of Jeju who dive without oxygen masks as one of its world agricultural heritage systems, officials said Friday.

The decision to list the Jeju Haenyeo Fisheries System on the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems was made during a three-day General Assembly session at the FAO headquarters in Rome, according to Jeju City.

"Haenyeo," some in their 80s, refers to female drivers on the southern resort island of Jeju who dive to the bottom of the sea to catch shellfish by holding their breath for more than a minute without oxygen masks, working for seven to eight hours a day.

The GIAHS, introduced by the FAO in 2002, is designed to preserve ecologically valuable farming methods that make much use of the local environment and rely on environmentally friendly land utilization systems to preserve biodiversity.

It has designated over 60 sites around the world, including terraced rice paddies on Cheongsan Island, South Jeolla Province, and volcanic rock walls surrounding farming fields on Jeju Island.

In December 2018, Jeju Island applied for an FAO GIAHS, but it failed to win a designation. It had submitted supplementary documents to the FAO three times since 2019, but the organization's evaluation resumed only this year after a suspension due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In 2015, South Korea designated Jeju's women divers as the country's No. 1 major fisheries heritage.