JEJU, Feb. 13 (Korea Bizwire) — Jeju haenyeo – female divers who are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage – are declining in number due to their aging population.
The Jeju provincial government said Wednesday that there were a total of 3,820 haenyeo in the province as of the end of last year, down 2 percent from 3,898 a year earlier.
By region, the number of haenyeo in Jeju-si fell 1.2 percent from 2,269 the previous year to 2,241, and Seogwipo-si saw a 3.1 percent drop from 1,659 the previous year.
By age, 2,235 haenyeo were over 70 years old, accounting for 58.5 percent of the total.
Those from 60 to 69 accounted for 30.7 percent of the total, compared to 8.4 percent for those in their 50s, 1.5 percent for those in their 40s, and 0.7 percent for those in their 30s.
There are also six young haenyeo under the age of 30 in the province, accounting for a mere 0.2 percent of the total.
The oldest diver is 98 years old this year and has 82 years of experience as a diver. The youngest diver was born in 1996.
The decline in the number of haenyeo was due to 137 retiring, seven who passed away and 18 who suspended operations.
Since last year, the provincial government has been suporting retirees who give up their fishing through the fishing community in order to prevent accidents among older haenyeo.
Retired haenyeo are paid 300,000 won (US$253) per month for three years as a retirement pension.
Meanwhile, only 50 people joined the fishing community after becoming haenyeo through a haenyeo school. Among the new members, 34 were accepted by the village fishing community as haenyeo.
The fishing community in the village recognizes new members as haenyeo only when they join the fishing industry for years, focusing on their experience as haenyeo.
“We will continue to provide retirement support for the elderly haenyeo, but we will expand the inflow of young haenyeo by asking the village fishing community to train more new haenyeo through the haenyeo school and ease the criteria for recognizing haenyeo,” a provincial official said.
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)