February 20, 2012 12:11
Korea's famous women divers who dive deep for shellfish, octopus and other sea life without breathing apparatus are aging, giving rise to fears that the traditional practise is dying out. Jeju Island is trying to get the practice listed on the UNESCO intangible heritage list.
The Jeju provincial government on Sunday said there are 4,881 active divers, of whom a mere five are men. A whopping 80.3 percent are senior citizens over the age of 60, with only four or 0.1 percent in their 30s. Some 128 or 2.6 percent are in their 40s, 826 or 16.9 percent in their 50s; and 2,265 or 46.4 percent in their 70s or older.
The number of the divers -- haenyos in Korean -- has been on a steady decline, from 5,406 in 2006 to 4,995 in 2010.
But the total annual income of the haenyos is W20.6 billion, or an average per head of W4.23 million, the first time since 2004 that the figure surpassed W20 billion (US$1=W1,126). It fell to W13.2 billion in 2007, but has recovered since then thanks to recovery of fishery resources.
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