The islands lie in the Korea Strait separating Japan and Korea, and divide the strait into the Tsushima Strait (west) and the Korea Strait (east). The archipelago consists principally of two rocky islands, Kami and Shimo, which are separated at one point by a narrow channel. Kami has an area of 98 square miles (255 square km), while Shimo has an area of 174 square miles (450 square km).The islands are heavily forested, and lumbering is an important economic activity. Shiitake mushrooms, millet, soybeans, and buckwheat are produced on the limited agricultural land. The archipelago is part of the Iki-Tsushima Quasi-National Park. The principal towns are Izuhara (the administrative centre) and Kechi on Shimo and Hitakasu on Kami.
Historically, the archipelago was a stepping-stone between Korea and Japan, and throughout its early history it was raided by Korean and Japanese pirates. From the 12th century to 1868 the islands were the fief of the Sō daimyo family, who often acted for Japan in diplomatic relations with Korea. During Mongol attempts to invade Japan in 1274 and 1281, the islands' population was massacred. In 1905 a Russian fleet was defeated by Japan in the Battle of Tsushima, which took place north of the islands.