Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Jeju Haenyeo Fisheries System


Detailed Information




Haenyeo (literally “sea women”) are professional women divers who dive to the bottom of the sea to catch seafood (e.g., abalone, turban shells, sea mustard and agar) without underwater breathing apparatus. The Jeju Haenyeo Fisheries, or the sea-diving industry on Jeju, emerged as the islanders turned to the abundant marine resources found on the rocky sea floor in an attempt to compensate for a constant shortage of agricultural products due to the poor soil of the volcanic island.

The core universal values of the Jeju Haenyeo Fisheries System are summarized as follows: a long history of the system, sustainability of the system, economic self-reliance of women and community-based culture. The Haenyeo Fisheries System has a long tradition that has been around since prehistoric times, and the passing down of traditional technologies and knowledge continues to this day. Haenyeo are self-reliant women who independently sought the role of the breadwinner of their families in the face of the harsh natural environment of the volcanic island. They are engaged not only in fisheries but also in farming. Following the opening of Korea in the late 19th century, haenyeo became pioneers who expanded the local economy to other parts of the world by venturing to Japan, China and Russia, as well as mainland Korea.