Safety in South Korea

Most expatriates find South Korea to be a very safe country. The main threats to personal safety that expats will come across are either related to the weather or petty crimes such as pickpocketing in crowded marketplaces.

Generally, the risk of terrorism in South Korea is considered low, although tensions between North and South Korea mean that foreign residents should keep up to date with the political situation by following news media.

Local laws for some crimes may be harsher than Western expats may be used to. For example, any car accident involving a motorcyclist or pedestrian that is injured could see the driver prosecuted, even if they weren’t at fault.

Expats should especially take care when driving around South Korea's cities as motorcycles, scooters and pedestrians can behave erratically.

As it is likely that expats will need to undergo a medical check on arrival if they plan to work in South Korea, it is important to keep in mind that drug use or possession is not tolerated and the results of a drug test could result in detainment or deportation. 

Crime in South Korea

The crime rate in South Korea is low, although there are incidents of bag-snatching, pickpocketing and petty theft in larger cities such as Seoul and Busan. As with any major city, there are some areas which are considered unsafe at certain times, although for the most part cities such as Seoul are safer than large American cities.

Expats should follow normal safety precautions such as locking doors, being aware of personal belongings in crowded areas and tourist hotspots, avoiding walking alone at night through isolated areas, and only using reputable taxi companies.

Natural disasters in South Korea

June to November is monsoon season in South Korea. Although monsoons in Korea are not as bad as they are in some other Asian countries, schools and businesses sometimes close due to the severity of approaching storms, but this is generally restricted to southern parts of the country. Expats visiting the country during the monsoon season should monitor weather reports from news media and stay indoors if advised to do so.

Political tensions between South Korea and North Korea

There is a long-standing political stand-off between the two halves of the Korean Peninsula. Although tensions are occasionally inflamed, in reality, there is little chance of the situation escalating to the point that it affects expatriates. Expats should keep abreast of the political situation by following the news media, just to be on the safe side.

Expats who intend to live, study or work in South Korea are also advised to register with their country's closest embassy.

Emergency telephone numbers in South Korea

Emergency response is swift and call centres usually have someone on staff who can speak some English.

  • Police: 112

  • Foreigner emergency information service: 1345

  • Ambulance and fire: 119

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