Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Jeju Haenyeo Fisheries System, Republic of Korea

GIAHS since 2023


Detailed Information



The Jeju haenyeo fishing practice can be described as a traditional subsistence fishing system predominantly carried out by women. Haenyeo” (“sea women” in Korean) is a collective term for professional women who dive underwater without the aid of breathing apparatus and collect seafood such as disk abalone, horned turban, and sea mustard. These female divers have been engaged in economic activities featuring a half-farming and half-fishery lifestyle and cultivate their “sea fields” through freediving, just as they cultivate the volcanic ash soil.

This fishing system is characterized by four distinct features. First, it involves the use of sessile aquatic organisms - such as mussels - that cannot be accessed using conventional fishing methods such as fishing boats or bare-handed fishing. Secondly, it uses few instruments, primarily relying on the bare hands of the haenyeo. In addition, it is noteworthy that this system holds the distinction of being the sole fishery globally that is managed solely by women. Lastly, its primary purpose is to serve as a source of household sustenance rather than engaging in commercial fishing for the purpose of generating economic gains.

The history of Jeju haenyeo dates back approximately 1,000 years and has continued until today through 103 villages still actively involved in this activity. The diving skills of Jeju haenyeo and their wisdom in running a community represent a living heritage that has been listed as an intangible world heritage by UNESCO. Haenyeos’ central role and symbol is the basis for subjectivity and self-reliance, which is supported by the reciprocity of the haenyeo community. This identity of Jeju haenyeo is a force that has maintained this system alive until today.

Flickr Album

REPUBLIC OF KOREA - Jeju Haenyeo Fisheries System