South Korea is a nation that is quite advanced when it comes to technology. It also has a military border that is quite active and always poses a threat. However, the country does offer a wide array of experiences that you will surely enjoy.
Indeed, South Korea is an amazing country to visit. You will not run out of things to do, places to visit, and you will definitely get the best of both worlds when it comes to culture and a modern way of living. This article takes a look at whether the country is indeed a safe place to visit.
Why South Korea is One of the Safest Nations in the World
South Korea is definitely one of the safest places on Earth. Does that mean that when tourists come to visit, they don’t have to worry about anything? This article summarizes some of the key points you need to consider regarding safety in South Korea.
Local Customs and Laws
In general, South Korean culture is heavily influenced by Japan’s and China’s culture.
Here are a few facts regarding South Korea’s local customs and laws:
- Respect for the elderly
- Respect for family
- Sincerity and loyalty
- Following certain codes of conduct while eating, praying and meeting
- Bowing instead of shaking hands.
The main religions in South Korea are Buddhism, Confucianism and Christianity. Among these three,
Buddhism has the most followers, and this is evident in the art, culture, and lifestyle in the country.
Here are some manners when it comes to meal time in South Korea:
- The elderly should be the first to sit at the table
- Before guests eat, they should say a phrase which means “I will enjoy the meal,” as a sign of respect.
- You shouldn’t eat too fast; be on the same pace as everyone else on the table.
- You should not make any sounds while chewing. You should close your mouth while doing so.
You need to follow South Korea’s local laws, otherwise you will be fined, jailed, or if your offense is that serious, even be put in death row.
One thing you should be careful about is bringing illegal drugs, possessing them, using them or trafficking them. If you are caught doing this, you will be jailed for long sentences and will pay heavy fines.
This is true even if you’re just using small amounts. You can be put to jail if a random drug test reveals you have been using drugs.
When you are going out, you should always bring your identification with you. This could be your passport.
When it comes to your passport, the next-of-kin details should be entered at the back.
When it comes to same-sex relationships, South Korea is open to this, more than many other countries in the world.
As of the time of writing this article, the world is at the middle of a health crisis that encompasses almost all nations. South Korea is one of the first to experience the major pains of such health crisis, but the nation has shown resilience and an ability to fully mitigate the situation.
Whenever you visit South Korea these days, though, you need to first be aware of the health guidelines posted by the World Health Organization in relation to travel.
These are some of the things you need to consider:
- You need to wash your hands regularly
- You need to practice social distancing; a 1 m distance (preferably higher) is at minimum.
- When someone is sneezing or coughing, you have to be as far away from that person as possible. Studies have shown that the virus can travel airborne as far as 60 feet.
- You need to wear face masks and face shields.
- You need to seek medical advice when you have any flu symptoms, like cough, fever, difficulty of breathing, loss of taste or smell, and others.
- You need to be aware of which vaccines you need to take or have injected on before you visit South Korea.
Safety in the Capital
South Korea is an advanced, first world country, and its major cities are quite modern. However, like all cities, they are not free from petty crime at least. You just need to be vigilant and as much as possible, be with a local or someone who knows the place pretty well when you decided to go out on a stroll.
Here’s some practical advice regarding safety in Seoul or other major cities in South Korea:
- Be careful of pickpockets, especially when you are in a crowded place in the capital.
- When you meet people who are a bit too friendly, just be apprehensive. They might be scammers
- When you are crossing the street, just look both ways. Traffic can be pretty busy, which is expected of any modern metropolis.
- Try to avoid mass demonstrations. Even if they seem peaceful at first, things could escalate quickly and turn violent.
Tips on Avoiding Crime
In order to be safe and stay away from crime, you need to take your own personal measures. Although South Korea has a very reliable law enforcement system in place, it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful.
Don’t expose your money or your other important things, like your smart phones perhaps. This is especially true when you’re outside.
If you’re a woman and you’re a solo traveler, then it’s probably best not to go out alone at night. If you have to go out, be with a local or in a group of people to be extra safe.
Be careful of people who just suddenly comes near you to talk to you.
You have to respect people, foreigners and locals alike. You have to keep an open mind and consider the fact that you’re in a different country with different customs and traditions.
Even if you’re in a hotel, it’s best to bring valuable items with you when you leave your hotel room to go outside.
When it comes to riding taxis, there are some that offer rides but don’t look like taxis at all. They don’t have the markings of legitimate taxis. Avoid them.
The best way around taxis is to ask for help from the hotel you are staying in, and let them call the taxi for you. Chances are they will contact a reputable taxi company for you.
Learn the language. Of course you probably can’t master it if you don’t spend a long time staying in the country, but the simple phrases for “Hello,” “Goodbye,” “Thank You,” “Please,” “Good morning,” and other common phrases will do.
Illegal, smuggled goods are not allowed in virtually all countries, and this is also true in South Korea. This is obvious, of course, but it should be stated still, as there are still a significant number of incidents involving attempts to bring contrabands to the country.
In South Korea, you will pay heavy fines and can be sent to jail when you are bringing unwanted goods in from the outside.
Here are some of the items you can’t bring into South Korea:
- Certain prescription drugs
- Certain health supplements
- Radio equipment
Have you heard of medical marijuana? While some places in the world, including some states in the USA, have legalized marijuana, it is still illegal and actually taboo in South Korea.
If you are caught possessing marijuana and using it, you will be fined and could go to jail.
South Korea has the death penalty. If you commit a crime that is quite serious, even if you are not a citizen of the country, you can still be executed.
North and South Korea
We all know that North Korea and South Korea are still technically at war with each other.
Despite that, life is pretty normal and peaceful in South Korea.
On the other hand, the situation is still quite delicate, and any little incident can heighten tensions between both countries in such a small amount of time.
If you’re unsure whether visiting South Korea is safe at a certain point in time, one thing you can do is read travel advisories and be up to date with news regarding the situation of both countries.
Some more recent incidents of tension between both countries happened back in 2017 and even in 2018.
However, there are promising events as well, including a historic peaceful meeting between the leaders of both countries back in 2018, and recent statements by the South Korean president hoping they could meet again.
Although, only time can truly tell if we can see a much sought after unity between both countries.
Despite this tension though, South Korea is still a much visited nation. Its tourists number by the tens of millions. Surely everyone knows the country is a great destination.
South Korean Healthcare
Before traveling to South Korea, you need to know which vaccinations you need to take.
South Korea also allows you to bring medication that you need for your travel, as long as you put it in a bag that you can carry on, and not inside the luggage that you have to check in.
Another important thing you can do is to contact the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety if you have concerns, before you proceed to travel to the country.
Travel is quite an enjoyable endeavor, but it does have its challenges. It can be stressful to think about all the documents you need to prepare, all the things you need to bring with you. There are many sources of anxiety.
That’s why you also need to take care of your mental health.
While in South Korea, you have access to an emergency medical service hotline number 119. When you avail of this government service, the next thing you need to do, if you can, is contact your insurance or medical assistance company right away, especially if they take you to the nearest hospital to be treated.
In South Korea, healthcare is quite excellent. However, it can be expensive. You may also have a hard time communicating as there are hospital workers that can’t speak English.
Indeed, there may be doctors and nurses that speak English in some larger hospitals in Seoul, you should generally assume that a South Korean doctor cannot converse with you in English.
Large university hospitals, on the other hand, have staff interpreters on standby, and they will help you to communicate with the non-English speaking medical staff in the hospital.
Some Health Risks
During spring season, you have to be careful of a tick-borne disease. To do this, when you go outdoors, and especially on grass, you have to wear long sleeves and trousers.
During spring as well, air pollution is common. They have what is called yellow dust. Sometimes the concentration is high, so people are advised to just stay inside their homes, drink lots of water and close the windows.
Some of the natural disasters that are common in South Korea include typhoons, droughts, floods, snowstorms, landslides, earthquakes and tsunamis.
Among all these natural disasters, the most common and dangerous are typhoons and heavy rainfall. In addition, Climate change has caused these disasters to become even more prevalent and dangerous.
As such, the government has been doing everything it can to mitigate or lessen the effects of these natural disasters. Here are some of the steps that the government has done in lieu of these concerns:
- Upgrade standards of buildings like hospitals, schools and other crucial infrastructure.
- Made plans for strategic land use; avoiding flood plains and steep slopes for example.
- Promoted and instigated the protection of wetlands and forests.
- Devised early warning systems
- Improved disaster preparedness capacity.
There you have it. South Korea definitely has a lot to offer and is a really safe place to be in. All you have to do is do some preliminary research, know more about the country as much as you can, and plan ahead. Indeed, the old adage is true; failing to plan is planning to fail.