Safety and security
The political situation in South Korea is stable. Political and student demonstrations occur from time to time which can disrupt traffic, and sometimes there are violent clashes. Demonstrations tend to occur in city centre areas. Monitor local media, follow the advice of local authorities and exercise caution.
The frequency of North Korean nuclear and missile tests has increased since 2016, and the level of tension between North and South Korea can escalate at little notice. An armistice continues in effect between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The border between North and South Korea, the Demilitarised Zone or DMZ, is one of the most heavily-fortified borders in the world. Relations between the two jurisdictions on the peninsula are subject to various degrees of tension, notably naval clashes in the Western Sea. However, the situation at this stage does not merit any cautionary advice about travelling to South Korea, although travel in the waters near the Northern Limit Line is not advisable. Always keep yourself informed of what's going on around you by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser.
South Korea has not been a target for terrorism in recent years, although North Korea has been accused of terrorist acts in the past.
Crime remains relatively low in South Korea but you should take sensible precautions.
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place
- Leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
- Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
- Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafes, train and bus stations
- Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
Reporting a crime
If you’re a victim of a crime while in South Korea, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy or Consulate/Honorary Consul if you need help. Call 112 for police (an interpretation service is available during working hours).
The rules of the road in South Korea are broadly similar to those in Ireland. Excellent motorways link all major cities, but minor roads are often badly maintained. Road signs are usually written in both Korean and English.
If you want to drive:
- Bring your international driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
- Be aware of South Korea’s traffic laws, such as speed limits
- Wear your seatbelts at all times
- Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights
Hiring a vehicle
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
The South Korean authorities normally hold nationwide civil emergency exercises on the 15th day of the month, eight times a year (not January, February, July or December). Sirens are sounded, transport stopped and some people are asked to take shelter in metro stations or basements. You should check local announcements for further exercises.
Wed, 17 May 2017 10:34:03 BST