Female divers of Jeju Island made it into the UNESCO’ cultural heritage list Thursday, boosting South Koreans’ hopes to preserve the traditional symbol of women’s empowerment and attract more tourists to the resort island.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on Wednesday added “haenyeo,” or sea women, to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during a session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
It marks Korea’s 19th cultural asset to win the world body’s heritage status.
UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage committee said the haenyeo culture shows a region’s unique cultural identity and cultural diversity. The listing is expected to raise awareness of the importance of jobs for women and promote communication with other communities with traditions similar to haenyeo, it said.
The world organization also said the haenyeo culture reflects female empowerment, best represented by haenyeo’s inclusion in the workforce.
The registration came a month after the Evaluation Body of UNESCO, which reviews the nominations to the lists, suggested that the South Korean culture be “inscribed.” It increased the likelihood that haenyeo would be registered by UNESCO, since the Evaluation Body’s suggestions are rarely ignored.
The body evaluated 37 lists this year, and haenyeo and 17 other cases were recommended for inscription.
South Korea has been listed 18 times on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO, including for the royal ancestral ritual in the Jongmyo shrine and its music, the pansori epic chant, the Gangneung Danoje festival, and the annual practice of making and sharing kimchi before winter, known as “gimjang.”