Imperial Japan and the Female Skin Divers (Chamsu) of Jeju Island, South Korea

  • Noriko Ijichi


Today, it is quite rare to find female skin divers in regions outside of Japan and South Korea. Jeju Island, the topic of this chapter, is the leading region in South Korea for female skin diving. Studies on chamsu, the female skin divers of Jeju Island, commenced during the colonial period as a field of Japanese research on the Korean peninsula, and have since expanded to incorporate folkloristics, ecology, and geography as well. This scholarship was later taken up in South Korea at the end of the colonial period, focusing mainly on aspects of physical prowess and social structure. Given that chamsu formed the economic nucleus of their region, maintaining the home and raising children, myths were constructed on the Korean mainland about these “tenacious” women. Behind this was the reality that there were no income opportunities for men on the island other than small-scale fishing and migration until the tourism industry was introduced in the 1980s. Further, due to their unique method of fishing, chamsu received special attention for their “peculiarities,” and were treated as mirrors reflecting both the history and culture of Jeju Island and were used to gain foreign appeal as well (Choa et al. 2006). From this interpretation, however, it is exceedingly diffcult to envision the actual everyday life of chamsu.


Korean Peninsula Colonial Period Scrap Iron Diving Site Overseas Travel 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Noriko Ijichi 2016

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  • Noriko Ijichi

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