‘Bonguging Badang’ by Diphda Jeju © Diphda Jeju

How to Safeguard Jeju Ocean on Travel
Diphda Jeju, a team of environmentally-conscious divers committed to reducing marine waste, discusses ways to travel the island of Jeju while protecting the natural beauty of its seas.
Jeju is a beautiful island. Gazing at the emerald-blue waters that glitter in the sun, you become immensely blissful that there is such a paradise in Korea. To preserve the natural ocean environment of Jeju in its best condition, a group of people have launched an initiative. We met with ‘Diphda Jeju’ collecting marine waste while engaging in activities such as walking on the beach, running, and diving into the sea. The interview offers a time to reassess the pricelessness of natural wonders and an awakening realization that it is not a given.
Q. Please introduce Diphda Jeju to our readers.
A. The name Diphda Jeju combines ‘Diphda’ which is the brightest star in the constellation of Cetus and the name of island ‘Jeju’ where we are active. We are committed to ‘green diving,’ which refers to a form of freediving involving those who respect the diversity of marine life and actively avoid making a negative impact on the ocean. We remove garbage and plastic waste from the sea. 

Q. How did it begin?
A. About three years ago I went out to sea with my friends and lost my diving mask. Then I accidentally found it two days later. In that two days’ span, the mask was rendered unusable, having been nibbled at by fish. I became reacquainted with the reality where marine waste is consumed by marine life, which is then consumed by men. I had known about it all along, but it was the moment that I saw it happen right before my eyes. Afterwards, I became actively involved in ocean cleanup. There are eight freedivers at the moment who take part in our initiative, in addition to having full-time jobs, for the purpose of sustaining our ocean and future.
바다에서 수거한 해양 쓰레기들 © 디프다제주

바다에서 수거한 해양 쓰레기들 © 디프다제주

바다에서 수거한 해양 쓰레기들 © 디프다제주

Marine debris picked up from the ocean © Diphda Jeju

Q. Please tell us more about the current situation involving marine waste in Jeju waters.
A. People tend to associate the expression ‘Jeju ocean’ with images of clear, emerald-blue seas. The real Jeju ocean, however, is a far cry from that ideal. It is filled with filthy waste. Tourists do not see that aspect just because popular beaches are being overseen by ‘bada jikimi’ or ocean watchers—government employees in charge of keeping the ocean clean. The bigger issue is that marine waste in the island affects not just its waters, but the island and other seas around the world as well. Frankly speaking, picking up garbage from the sea, like us, is not the ultimate solution to the problem of marine waste. The collected garbage all goes to the designated disposal site located in the middle mountainous area. We need to also think about what to do with that volume. Moreover, there is a ton of debris in Jeju, flowing in from overseas along the currents. Reversely, it means our waste originated in Korea is floating around in the ocean and landing on the shores of other countries. We need to consider not just the seas around Jeju, but the entire island and all the waters around the world when we address the issue of marine waste.

Q. What kind of activities does Diphda Jeju do?
A. Our main activity is ‘bonguging’ led by Diphda Jeju members. Bonguging combines ‘bongeuda’ meaning ‘pick up’ in Jeju dialect and ‘plogging’ in English meaning jogging while picking up litter. Basically it is a campaign encouraging joggers or divers to collect litter while they are exercising. Largely, there are two categories of ‘Bonguging Badang’ and ‘Bonguging Beach.’ Bonguging Badang is the activity of picking up litter from the ocean floor through freediving between the months of May and December when the water temperature is higher. Bonguging Beach, picking up the debris washed up on the beach, is carried out between January and April or when the weather conditions are not suitable for diving.
For campaigns for the public, we have Bonguging Together, Bonguging Drinking, Bring-Your-Own-Cup Bonguging, and Bongudam activities. Bonguging Together has temporarily been suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but we do hold small-group bonguging events from time to time. We have recently collaborated with cosmetics company Innisfree to promote litter picking. We have also partnered with Jeju Special Self-Governing Province and Jeju Tourism Organization for bonguging events.
다이빙이 어려울 때는 해변에 밀려온 해양 쓰레기를 줍는다.

다이빙이 어려울 때는 해변에 밀려온 해양 쓰레기를 줍는다.

다이빙이 어려울 때는 해변에 밀려온 해양 쓰레기를 줍는다.

When it gets difficult to dive into the ocean, people pick up waste that has washed up on the shore.

Q. What was the most rewarding experience during bonguging?
A. It was when we had Bonguging Together. When I first saw the beach filled with garbage, it felt impossible to clean up everything. But when we pulled our efforts together, we were eventually able to remove all of it. That experience has taught me a lesson that marine waste is in the end man-made, and that the problem can be fixed by us humans. We are the beings that may be small but can create something powerful when we are together. That is why we are committed to ensuring more and more people learn about and participate in the issue of marine waste. It was very encouraging.

Q. What was the most challenging experience, if there were any?
A. Whenever we pick up litter from the sea, we unavoidably run into a marine carcass. We see dead fish, seahorses, sea turtles, and numerous kinds of seabirds buried in a heap of litter. We are saddened by the thought that a man-made issue is wreaking havoc on innocent wildlife. Especially when we find rare, endangered species such as seahorses and sea turtles fallen prey to our wrongdoing, we feel miserable and helpless. We renew our commitment every time it happens. It motivates us to pick up more litter and spend more energy in order not to create waste in our daily life.
디프다제주 멤버들

Members of Diphda Jeju

Q. What can travelers do in Jeju with regard to the issue of marine waste? Give us some practical information for sustainable tourism.
A. Using personal tumblers, reducing disposable products, and picking up litter—it’s what we all know very well. Once you start picking up litter, you will reach a conclusion that producing less waste, to begin with, is the fundamental solution. When you travel, you may go to two to three different restaurants or cafes each day. These days quite a few cafes provide drinks in disposable cups even if you make a sit-in order. Some restaurants have paper cups instead of regular cups for water. How about carrying a personal cup for such an occasion? Whenever I go out, I make sure that I have a tumbler and a water bottle. The tumbler is for coffee and other beverages, while the water bottle comes in handy whenever I get thirsty because I don’t have to buy bottled water from a store.
Of course doing this in real life can be cumbersome. It would be great if you can find courage to accept a few inconveniences in your life while traveling around Jeju Island. If you consciously look for garbage and observe it, you will soon find that courage. For instance, try to see what is stuck between rocks along the shore or buried in the sandy beach, and figure out how they’ve been deformed while staying that way, what is most commonly found, and where it came from. If these experiences in Jeju have given you enough courage to make a small sacrifice for the cause of a sustainable environment, you can return to your daily life and start practicing what you can.

Q. Can a traveler participate in bonguging and bongudam?
A. Travelers are welcome to join bonguging and bongudam anytime. You can rent necessary equipment at the Bonguging Drinking shops affiliated with Diphda Jeju. If you have a bonguging validation, you get a complimentary coffee or beer at participating shops. Quite a few travelers have already joined our activities. For bongudam, you can visit Jeju Tobacco Control Center. Once you receive the bongudam kit from the center, you can start picking up cigarette butts. There is a small gift reward for participants. Some participants travel to Jeju Island to join a Bonguging Together activity, which requires an advance online application.

디프다제주의 ‘봉그깅 바당’ © 디프다제주

‘Bonguging Badang’ by Diphda Jeju © Diphda Jeju

Q. What should we be mindful of when picking up marine litter independently?
A. Marine litter has to be processed separately due to its sodium content. Local government offices hand out burlap sacks to those going litter picking in the sea. Once you insert enough waste in a sack, close the opening tightly, and put it on the side of a road. Call the town office to give the location information for pickup. It is easier than you would think.
Jeju beaches are known for the presence of basalt rocks. Avoid forcefully retracting small garbage in the cracks between the rocks as it could be dangerous. Make sure you wear work gloves when picking up litter. There could be shards of glass or used syringes. Watch out for sharp pieces of sea shell in the rocks. If you find a PET or glass bottle still containing liquid, it is the safest to collect it without emptying it out. You can never know for sure what the liquid may be. Always try not to push the boundaries.

Q. We would like to hear how splendid it is under the Jeju ocean from a free-diver’s perspective.
A. From land, emerald-blue seas are pretty to look at, but for divers there is a slight lack of adventure. Being that light blue means it is a shallow sea with a sandy floor. Diving at such a spot usually only means you get water and sand. That’s why many divers go to islands near Seogwipo, including Beomseom, Seopseom, and Munseom. Known as a diving mecca, they have deeper waters where a variety of fish and coral reefs are found. The sensation of flying freely through the sheer curtain of light without gravity pulling you, fantastic rock formations exclusive to Jeju Island spread out before your eye, and a multicolored marine ecosystem··· Do not just imagine these images with your mind’s eye. See them in person by all means.
디프다제주의 ‘봉그깅 해변’

‘Bonguging Beach’ by Diphda Jeju

Diphda Jeju Programs for Travelers
Bonguging Drinking It is an eco campaign giving up to 5,000-won beverage discount to those who collect marine waste using a sack and tongs rented from Diphda Jeju-affiliated shops and create a social media posting about it. The list of participating stores are: ‘Josie’s Bottle Shop’ in Hyeopjae, ‘Aendeuyu Cafe’ in Ongpo, ‘Momong the Teahouse’ in Sinchang, ‘Mikuni’ in Samyang, ‘Dovana’ in Pyoseon, ‘Lupin’ in Sagye, ‘Orrrn’ in Seongsan, ‘Cafe Mangamgyocha’ in Sinyang, and ‘Orba’ in Bomok. For more information, check the Instagram of Diphda Jeju
Bongudam Bonguging meets cigarette(dambae) butts. By number, cigarette butts take the top spot in marine waste ranking. Bongudam is a campaign designed to raise awareness on the damage caused by cigarette butts and to form a non-smoking culture. Participants receive bamboo toothbrushes for posting pictures of their mission bags filled with cigarette butts picked up from the street. Jeju Tobacco Control Center, Cheju Halla University’s student club Nquit, and Diphda Jeju have co-created the campaign. You can receive necessary items such as a mission bag for cigarette butts at Jeju Tobacco Control Center located near the bus terminal in Jeju-si. For more information, go to the blog run by Jeju Tobacco Control Center.
롯데호텔 제주

롯데호텔 제주

롯데호텔 제주


Where to Stay in Jeju: LOTTE HOTEL JEJU
LOTTE HOTEL JEJU is a resort hotel equipped with a total of 500 rooms and suites. Inspired by ‘The Palace of the Lost City’ resort in South Africa, the hotel’s architectural design creates an exotic atmosphere as it blends into the pristine natural environment of Jeju Island. There are four restaurants and a lounge, as well as various high-end facilities including a year-round outdoor spa pool, offering the perfect getaway for visitors who want to enjoy Jeju and relax as well.
Address 35 Jungmungwangwang-ro 72beon-gil, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do
Inquiry +82-64-731-1000
December 2021 Editor:Kim Hyewon
Writer:Jung Daun
Photographer:Park Doosan

Where to stay?

  • December 2021
  • Editor: Kim Hyewon
    Writer: Jung Daun
  • Photographer: Park Doosan
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