Dive Korea
For English-language info on scuba diving in Korea try:
Jejueco.com (Cheju)
Deep Blue Quest (Seoul area)
Update - March 2015 (yes, it's been a long time between updates!)
Belatedly added links to 38th Parallel Divers and their associated Facebook page.
Update - July 2006
Have recently added a couple of new scuba diving websites Deep Blue Quest (also available in Korean and Spanish) and Aquatic Frontier. Check them out for more Korea dive info.
Update - Oct. 1, 2005
A new scuba club and website has opened in the Suwon area. Head to Suwon Scuba for more info on courses and dives.
Update - May 29, 2004
Been in Korea for a while and looking for something different? New to the peninsula and interested in exploring Pusan/Busan in a unique way? Then why not head down to the Busan Aquarium and go on a shark dive? Read all about it on the new shark dive page.
Update - Aug. 9, 2003
Living in Seoul and want to learn to dive, in English? Head to BrianJStuart.com for more info. Or checking out Brian's writings on diving in Korea here at 1stop.
Update - Oct. 7, 2001
Want to dive in Korea? There is a great new foreign-run website and diveshop on Cheju Island! Head to BigBlue33.co.kr for information, pricing and help in English, German or Korean.

Update - Sept. 25, 2000
Below you'll find an article I wrote about some dives I did on a vacation to Cheju-do in the summer of 2000. Part of the reason for the story was to try and find some other English language info/websites on diving in Korea. I'm happy to say it worked - someone brought my attention to Scuba_In_Korea - an English site devoted to, well, scuba in Korea.


Off Southern Cheju-do, Summer 2000

Long famous for its 'hay-nyaw' (literally 'sea woman') female pearl divers, Cheju Island off Korea's south coast also has challenging, interesting conditions to offer more modern scuba divers. I just got back from a weeklong trip to Cheju-do ('do' is Korean for 'island') where I was able to get in four dives off the southern city of Sogwipo. While no threat to the Caribbean or SE Asia the Cheju dives weren't bad - great visibility (even with a storm up top), octopi, lobsters and small schools of fish plus areas for both experienced and beginner divers.

Before I left on the trip I searched the Internet for English info on diving in Korea but all I was able to find was some very basic general info from the KNTO (Korea National Tourism Organization). I'm writing this in the hope that other divers will see it and add their own opinions so we can create a useful English language resource for ourselves.

Sogwipo is Cheju's (and Korea's) southernmost city and the home of most diving on the island. I saw several dive shops and boats in and around the easy-to-find harbor. There is also a 'leisure sports' shop just outside the upscale Chungmun Resort area that can arrange dives on surprisingly short notice. We went in to the shop at noon and set up a dive for 1 o'clock the same day! After a little haggling and because we were foreigners who, "spoke such good Korean" the price went from W150,000 to 100,000 per person for the two of us. That included all our equipment (we'd brought only our own masks and snorkels), the divemaster and two boat dives.


Our divemaster, Mr. Kim Suk-Chul was very qualified. A diver for over 20 years, just that morning he had worked with two members of the Korean Secret Service! He also helps train underwater demolitions experts for the Korean special forces, is vice-president of one of the major Asian diving associations and a PADI licensed diving instructor trainer. This had me worried at first that he would be a little too gung-ho and controlling during the dive but after checking our certification and asking a couple of questions he seemed satisfied with our experience and proved to be very hands-off.

He explained the dive site, gave us some background on the strong current and thermocline (change in water temperature) and then once underwater limited himself to pointing out things we might have missed. I would recommend him to anyone, experienced or beginner, thinking of diving in Cheju. He can be reached in Sogwipo at (064) 733-7774. We spoke mostly Korean when it was just us but English when he wanted to show off in front of others. His diving-related English was solid and should prove acceptable for most people.

Our dive site was Munsom, or 'Mosquito Island', a 10 minute boat ride from Sogwipo Harbor (spare me the letters please - I know 'po' is Korean for harbor and 'Sogwipo Harbor' is actually redundant but it's clearer this way). The island itself is sheer rock cliffs jutting straight from the water. Our dive 'platform' was a small rocky ledge (bring footgear!) that ran around part of the island. We off-loaded the boat and it took off while we got into our gear. A word about sizes here - Korea is set up for Koreans and if you're a tall Westerner good luck finding equipment that will fit. I squeezed into a wetsuit that kept me warm but probably ended any chance I ever had of fathering children . . .

We jumped from the ledge into the water about 2 meters (6 feet) below and began our descent. It's a deep dive (we hit 27 meters - over 80 feet) with a wicked current and pronounced thermocline at about 20 meters. Above the thermocline the water was quite warm and tropical but dropped about 10 degrees in a meter or two as we approached depth. Visibility was great, especially in the cold water. Saw plenty of fish, a good-sized octopus and the walls that formed the small island above ripping straight out of the sea floor.

The problem was the current. The island isn't a smooth circle but more of a multi-pointed star with really strong currents at the tips but relative calm inside each of the little 'coves'. It was a real bitch to get around the corners (strong swimmers only) and cut strongly into our underwater time. On the plus side it gave a great ride back - I finally lucked into some good buoyancy and spent most of the return just gliding along looking at the scenery.

The second dive was basically the same as the first. One bad point was that both my friend and I had equipment problems - he with his regulator and me with my BCD. Mr. Kim's equipment was nice (Mares and the like) but a little old. As always check any rented gear thoroughly before entering the water.

The second day we went back with two more friends, also experienced divers. With the four of us plus two local divers we set out the second day on Mr. Kim's own dive boat (the first day with only two divers we'd just rented a local fishing boat to ferry us to and from the nearby island). His boat was a bit old but functional and large enough to hold six divers and their equipment with no problem. There's a covered equipment area on the back, dive platform and enclosed captain's cabin.

This time we went a bit further out for our initial dive - about 30 minutes from the harbor. Here the dive was much shallower - I only hit 13 meters (about 40 feet) but with more fish, good coral, white sand and good visibility even with a pretty decent storm up top. This was a fun dive; the divemaster even caught a really good-looking lobster and the shallow depth afforded us a long bottom time. The previous day's current and thermocline were absent, making this a comfortable beginner dive.

The waves up top forced us to leave and head for a more sheltered, but less interesting, spot near the harbor mouth for our final dive. Perhaps because we were so close to shore I saw a lot of junk (old tires, cans, etc.) on this final dive but little else. Again the visibility was great and without the current and thermocline this would be another safe, though somewhat dull, spot for a beginner.

All in all I found my Cheju diving experience quite rewarding. Of course my expectations hadn't been very high to start with so I came away pleasantly surprised. If you're looking for something to rival the world's great dive spots you're going to be disappointed but if you're looking for a place to get in some interesting dives during your stay in Korea then Cheju will put a smile on your face and keep your skills sharp.

My two days of diving in Cheju hardly qualify me as an expert and are in no way intended to serve as any kind of definitive dive guide to the island or to Korea. I would simply like this article and your contributions to serve as a starting point for compiling a decent English diving guide to Cheju and Korea. Personally I'm dying to find a good wreck dive. There have been ships sailing in Korean waters for over two millennia and I'd love to dive an old Japanese pirate ship, Chinese trading junk, whatever. If anyone has any info on this I would REALLY appreciate hearing from you.



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