"Under the sea, under the sea.” Bouncy melodies of the renowned original sound track (OST) of Disney’s Little Mermaid (1989) bring up colorful images of the underwater environment. Coral reefs contain multifarious life forms such as fish, sea turtles and rays. In many documentaries depicting such scenes, viewers can see scuba divers swimming aided by specialized equipment. Actually, such opportunities for those who would like to immerse themselves in the ocean waters are not entirely unrealistic. In fact, the chance lies right next door.
The Korea University (KU) Skin Scuba Diving Team has been the one and only skin scuba diving club at KU since 1968. Many universities have their own skin scuba diving clubs nowadays. However, when KU Skin Scuba Diving Team was first founded, skin scuba diving was an unfamiliar activity among students. At that time, Kim Sang-kyum, a former professor at KU and the youngest son of the Founder of KU, Kim Seong-soo, establised the Korea Skin Scuba Diving Club - which is currently called the Korea Underwater Association (KUA) - and conducted the first diving lectures open to the public. Lee Byung-doo (’67, Life Sciences) took those lessons and founded a skin scuba diving division in KU which has been active ever since.
At first, since skin scuba diving was not widespread, members had to use second-hand Korea Navy diving equipment from the United States (U.S.) military. However nowadays, the KU Skin Scuba Diving Team owns the largest amount of diving equipment among all university skin scuba diving clubs. Alumni of the KU Skin Scuba Diving Team have been continuously contributing money to the club to help members purchase diving gear. Furthermore, several alumni who have skin scuba diving licenses provide diving lessons for the team members at no charge. Such support enabled the KU Skin Scuba Diving Team to shine as one of the best university skin scuba diving clubs.
The Granite Tower (GT) had an interview with the club’s president, Kim Min Ji (’17, English Language and Literature), to hear more stories and get more information about their activities.
GT: How did KU Skin Scuba Diving Team begin?
Kim: The first president, Lee Byung-doo, started the team in 1968. Actually, diving was not for recreational purposes when it was introduced. Rather it was a specialized skill used by the military to install or clear underwater mines. So, it was a shocking event for a normal university student to establish a skin scuba diving club at his school under such poor conditions. Nevertheless, our alumni went through harsh times and at last made the KU Skin Scuba Diving Team the best diving club in South Korea. All the members of the club feel great pride in our team’s history.
▲ Kim Min Ji, President of KU Skin Scuba Diving Team
GT: What inspired you and the members of the KU Skin Scuba Diving Team to start diving underwater?
Kim: I started diving when I was young as my parents enjoyed diving as their hobby. When I was about 12 years old, I was certified with an open-water diving license with my father and gained an advanced diving license two years later. My parents influenced me greatly, so they helped me start diving, but it was my own decision to continue diving as my hobby. I love the feeling of diving and it is what still makes me dive underwater after all these years.
GT: What is good about skin scuba diving and what is difficult about it?
Kim: Specifically, I would like to talk about the advantages of diving with my club members. Diving with my close friends is a huge advantage. If I dive through a private diving club, I could feel anxious since it is difficult to fully trust my partner. One of the most difficult and dangerous situations in diving is when the diver panics. Moreover, you should not fully entrust anybody you are diving with, because diving is a sport that coexists with nature. We do not have to worry about such situations since there is a lot of trust among the club members.
GT: Do you have any special criteria for choosing a location for your skin scuba diving?
Kim: During spring and autumn seasons, we usually go diving in the East Sea because of the short distance from Seoul. However, during summers and winters we usually choose Jeju-do or Ulleung-do as our diving spots since we can spend more time for our diving expedition in those seasons. There is a man we call Uncle Byung-il in Jeju-do. He is a diving master who helped our former club members when they were struggling with their diving equipment. We usually visit his diving club when going to Jeju-do, not only because he is a great expert in diving, but also because he is extremely kind to KU students.
GT: Could you tell readers some memorable episodes you had while diving?
Kim: Diving in South Korean seas feels very different from the seas I have experienced abroad. The seas I had gone through before were colorful, since both fish and coral reefs had diverse colors. On the contrary, South Korean seas look as if there are rocky mountains underwater. Moreover, I cannot forget the scene of facing a huge school of sardines right in front of me. I heard that my club members have actually seen sea turtles, dolphins and a gigantic halibut. Any scene underwater seems to be a scene from the movie Little Mermaid, which makes diving so amazing.
GT: “Skin scuba diving is ( ) for me.” Please fill in the blank with your own words. Why do you think so?
Kim: “Skin scuba diving is my youth.” Since my childhood to this very moment, my life has been full of skin scuba diving. That is why I can proudly say “diving is my youth.” I will continue diving until I breathe my last breath. I wish more people could experience the charm of skin scuba diving.