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Cultural Aspects of Diving in Korea

Discussion in 'South Korea' started by scuba_divo, Dec 13, 2019.

  1. scuba_divo

    scuba_divo Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: South Korea
    59
    30
    18
    International divers will probably be familiar with booking dives in sunny ocean locations where the dive shop covers most aspects of your dive. You rent gear, tanks and weights from them. They pick you up from your hotel, run their own boat and potentially even provide meals throughout the day. Most importantly, a variety of languages are available for your convenience.

    In Korea, especially on the mainland, the situation can be quite different. Culturally Koreans like to have a sense of belonging and togetherness, and, as a result, they often band together into clubs for sports and hobbies. Diving is no exception. However, the dive shops and clubs are often in large urban areas where the people are, which can be quite distant from the dive locations—think Seoul to the East Sea. Often what happens is that the club will meet at a dive shop in a metropolitan area, car pool to a dive site on the coast then liaise with a local service that provides tank rentals, weights, gear washing and drying facilities along with washrooms and showers. This onsite provider may also be the boat operator for the dive site. However, the onsite location doesn’t necessarily provide instructors, dive masters or guides to help you navigate the site. Working professionals would probably be part of the dive shop tour or club that you travel to the site with.

    As the clubs are as much social clubs as they are diving clubs, the club may plan a day trip or arrange lodging together if it is a multi day dive trip. There will most likely be social events connected to the dive club as well. This may seem daunting for some international divers to break into due to culture and language barriers. Conversely, for those looking to make local connections, practice their Korean and have an adventure, it might be just what they are looking for, provided they can figure out how to make the initial connections.

    Expats in Korea have observed that many club members (diving, cycling, hiking, etc.) tend to invest heavily in flashy, high end gear and show up decked out to the max. There is an element of seeing and being seen in Korean culture. Members may invest to show they are a member of the group; they belong and have a social identity there. It’s more than just diving, it’s their social network.

    It may also be possible to show up at the onsite locations with your dive buddy, rent tanks and dive; however, some boats or other transportation services may have a required minimum number to run their service (e.g. 5 divers minimum.) This is fine if you’re part of a club, but may make your diving hit or miss if there are only 2 of you. Best to try to get a Korean speaker to call ahead, confirm your options and see if there are enough reservations that day. These onsite service providers may or may not provide any services in English. (Please see other posts here for recommendations of services in English.)

    Another point relates to gear. If you are just passing through and need to rent, keep in mind that you’ll want to check whether service providers have gear in your size. I called around to about 15 different shops in late 2018 and about half of them stocked men’s size XL as their biggest rental size; the other half only carried up to size L. Something to keep in mind.

    I hope this provides international divers with some helpful insights into diving in Korea. I’ll try to keep this post updated as I learn more about diving Korea. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions here in the South Korean sub-forum if you’d like to learn more. Several of us local divers are trying to share what we learn so that diving in Korea becomes easier for other expats who would like to dive here. Dive safe!
     
    markmud, Dogbowl, wnissen and 7 others like this.
  2. coralreefer_1

    coralreefer_1 Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: South Korea
    32
    22
    8
    Having lived here for 15 years, and done ALL of my training here with Korean trainers and Korean-run dive operations this post is 100% spot on accurate. I will add however that foreign divers are very often the star of the show/dive and Koreans will happily take you into their "club" at least for the duration of the day and treat you like a star if you are a foreigner and game and willing to be socialble and fun.
     
    markmud and scuba_divo like this.
  3. coralreefer_1

    coralreefer_1 Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: South Korea
    32
    22
    8
    Actually I think this is a really important thread because from my experience with a handful of other foreign divers here, they seem to just dive at the same dive shop and the same dive sites over and over.

    And although diving here on the ROK is not really all that diverse in terms of marine life, the interactions with new diver operations/people/divers is a whole other ocean in and of itself. I would love to travel with other foreign divers to some dive operation we have all never been to, to dive a site we all never have and just enjoy the fun and comraderie of it all.
     
    markmud and scrane like this.
  4. scuba_divo

    scuba_divo Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: South Korea
    59
    30
    18
    Good to hear. Actually, diving with as wide a variety of operators as possible was my 2020 plan pre-COVID-19. Obviously, the pandemic kind of messed with that plan. Moving this month, which is dominating my finances, but hoping to get back into diving in the fall.
     
    markmud likes this.
  5. skippy311

    skippy311 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Korea
    130
    64
    28
    Go dive next weekend!
     
    markmud likes this.
  6. Gareth J

    Gareth J Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: UK
    824
    751
    93
    Interesting OP.

    In the late 90's I spent a few years in and out of Korea for work, often spending a month or two in Korea on each visit. I never had the opportunity to dive during my visits.

    Interestingly (from my point of view), there is an affiliate of BSAC (BSAC Korea). From reading the original post, being a club based system, I guess that fits well with the Korean view of joining a group.
     
    scuba_divo and markmud like this.
  7. scuba_divo

    scuba_divo Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: South Korea
    59
    30
    18
    Oh, I want to, but my wallet is on lockdown right now.
     
  8. skippy311

    skippy311 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Korea
    130
    64
    28
  9. Magnus Lundstedt

    Magnus Lundstedt Divemaster

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Umeå, sweden
    496
    209
    43
    If one like to come to Kore to dive for a few weeks, in what are should one stay?

    How can one find Clubs and Divecenters?

    What is the pricerange for diving in Korea?
     

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