Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.B.24

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Republic of Korea has nominated Culture of Jeju Haenyeo (women divers) (No. 01068) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

In Jeju Island, there is a community of women, some aged in their 80s, which goes diving 10m under the sea to gather shellfish, such as abalone or sea urchins for a living without the help of oxygen masks. With knowledge of the sea and marine life, the Jeju haenyeo (female divers) harvest for up to seven hours a day, 90 days of the year holding their breath for just one minute for every dive and making a unique verbal sound when resurfacing. Divers are categorized into three groups according to level of experience: hagun, junggun and sanggun with the sanggun offering guidance to the others. Before a dive, prayers are said to the Jamsugut, goddess of the sea, to ask for safety and an abundant catch. Knowledge is passed down to younger generations in families, schools, local fishery cooperatives which have the area’s fishing rights, haenyeo associations, the Haenyeo School and Haenyeo Museum. Designated by the provincial government as representing the island’s character and people’s spirit, the culture of Jeju haenyeo contributes to the advancement of women’s status in the community and promotes environmental sustainability with its eco‑friendly methods and community involvement in managing fishing practices.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

R.1:   The file describes how the element provides an essential dimension of the local communities’ cultural identity and underlies their resilient spirit. Most people on the island know a Jeju diver. Rituals are performed to enhance safety at sea and an abundant catch. The diving skills, as well as a sense of responsibility, are transmitted from senior to junior women divers – the former being the leaders of fishery cooperatives. A school has also been established. Some community projects are financed through communal catches, promoting social cohesion and cultural continuity for communities concerned. Diving by the Jeju divers is described as ecologically sound, given in part the prohibition of advanced fishing methods. The culture of Jeju divers also contributes to the promotion of women’s rights through an appreciation of their skills and contribution to household incomes;

R.2:   Inscription of the element would contribute to the global visibility of intangible cultural heritage elements that are based on local knowledge and foster nature and sustainable development. It would also raise international awareness of the importance of women’s work as intangible cultural heritage, and encourage intercultural dialogue between haenyeo communities and other communities, which have similar practices. Inscription would encourage the recognition of human creativity: as a rich source of artistic inspiration, the culture of Jeju haenyeo is a popular subject of various genres such as poetry, novel, drama, film, and musical performances;

R.3:   Past, current and proposed measures constitute a comprehensive framework that reflects the commitment of the communities, professional groups and the State to ensure the viability of the element. The proposed measures focus on its promotion, the management of marine resources, and improvement of haenyeo living conditions. The proposed safeguarding measures include maintaining a balance between diving for income and diving for tourists and reducing the hours spent diving. Research, education on the local culture and a new museum are also mentioned. The file states that the representatives of the diving cooperatives, because of their pride in their culture, would fully participate in the implementation of the proposed measures;

R.4:   The Jeju haenyeo communities, researchers, intangible cultural heritage experts, and the Jeju provincial government participated in all stages of the nomination. The chairs of all village fishery cooperatives and 100 haenyeo associations in Jeju province gave their free, prior and informed consent to the nomination. The file notes that no customary practices restrict access to the enjoyment of, and information about, the element;

R.5:   The element was registered on the State Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage elements in 2011. The inventory was drawn up with the active participation of communities, groups, relevant non-governmental organizations, individual professionals and researchers. The inventory is to be regularly updated and a relevant list is available on the website of the Cultural Heritage Administration.

  1. Inscribes Culture of Jeju Haenyeo (women divers) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.