To learn more about the emerging market diving community of Korea, Jula and I traveled to Mactan, AKA the little Korea of the Philippines. The SCUBA School International (SSI) office for Region VII – central Visayas hosted us, offering to show us around the city and introduce us to key community members. Chris Lee, SSI Instructor Trainer and Korean Community Manager along with Corinna Davids, Communications Manager acted as community ambassadors introducing us to Korean dive centres and divers. Chris and Corinna were important points of introduction within the tightly knit community, and able to ease communication boundaries of language limitations.
For three days we ate Korean food, went to Korean bars, and generally immersed ourselves in the Korean community of Mactan. Jula and I were able to conduct nine in-depth consultations within the Mactan Korean dive community. Even over such a limited time frame, we were able to begin discerning behavior patterns linked to diving that will continue to inform the Green Fins approach to emerging markets over the next year.
Compared to other emerging market nationalities, Korean divers are more technically advanced. According to multiple consultation sources, diving in Korea is largely confined to Jeju island. Diving in Jeju is more difficult than South East Asia, cooler temperatures and rougher water over soft corals mean divers must be more skilled than other diving destinations. Within the Korean diving community skill level of the diver is more important than actual certification level, and lends the diver a certain status within the community.
Like skiing and snowboarding, diving is becoming increasingly popular in Korea. The younger generation with disposable income is seeking outlets for exploration and new experiences. The majority of Korean survey respondents cited travel and adventure, as well as trying something new as a reason for their interest in SCUBA diving.
Even though Jeju island is predominantly soft corals and several marine protected areas exist in Korea, still limited to no prior knowledge of coral reefs exists among new divers. Environmental education is limited. The majority of dive guides and instructors interviewed identified lack of environmental awareness and experience in the water as key limiting factors to educating emerging market divers on environmental standards. Translated Green Fins materials will go a long way to inspiring behavioural change toward protecting the marine environment.
Additional recommendations that came out of Mactan community consultations, include outreach within emerging market countries and specifically designed training for dive guides and instructors on best practices for educating emerging market divers. Trends in teaching styles identified largely relate to cultural expectations of respect. Unlike other emerging market nationalities, Korean instructors indicated a positive outcomes focus as the most effective means of teaching, as opposed to negative reinforcement.
Of the 2,519,300 foreign visitors to the Philippines from January to May of 2016, 576,332 were Korean (22.88%). As this demographic continues to grow, it will become increasingly important for Green Fins to create an accessible and culturally relevant approach to sustainable SCUBA diving and snorkeling tailored for this specific group.