Whenever traveling to another country, safety is always a concern. But is South Korea safe? It sure is! But there are still some things any future visitor or resident should know about. Here are 8 things you should know about safety in Korea!
1. Should I be Scared?
Depending on where you live, news about North Korea can be really crazy. And you might be worried about coming to Korea whenever there’s some North Korean nuke news. And sure it is a valid reason to be afraid. But aside from military skirmishes ranging from minor to sorta serious, not much has happened to the general public since the Korean War; the Kim family up north usually keeps the armistice intact. And because nothing too serious has happened, most people in South Korea probably pay less attention to it than you do. Think about it like this. If you have a crazy neighbor that’s been screaming threats about your stuff on his property for 50 years, but he never really does anything about it, you keep an eye on him, but don’t freak out with every threat. Just keep on mowing your lawn, friends.
Here’s Keith’s take on how South Korea views North Korea.
The only active volcano on the Korean peninsula is Mt. Baekdusan, which is located all the way up north on the border between North Korea and China. Although it last erupted more than 100 years ago (1903), experts do say that it erupts every 100 years or so. But is that really going to stop you from coming to buy Kpop socks?
Although earthquakes aren’t unheard of in Korea, they’re rare enough that you can live an entire lifetime in Korea without feeling one. But when they do occur, they’re usually weak enough for you to confuse it with one of dad’s taco night farts.
4. Typhoons (aka Tropical Storms)
Typhoons occur anytime between May and November every year. They sometimes get strong enough to cause some damage, but it’s rare for them to be so strong to cause any severe damage. Most of the time they’re just really wet and windy days for you to stay indoors and look at cat pictures on Facebook all day.
Crime in South Korea
5. Violent Crimes
Like all countries, crimes exists in Korea. But for foreigners, there’s not much to worry about. Violent street crime is very rare and that means you don’t have to worry about muggings, random beatings, kidnappings, etc. Also, guns are super illegal (see it explained in this video). That all equates to you feeling very safe while in Korea (trust us). There are sometimes alcohol-fueled altercations, but generally if you keep to your own business, you’ll be a-ok :). Most of the time it will be Koreans beefing with other Koreans as foreigners get somewhat overlooked as victims regarding “face-to-face” crimes. That’s because Korean criminals are unsure how crazy some foreigners can be (kind of kidding, but kind of not :P).
6. Non-violent Crimes
Foreigners, however, are not exempt from “non-face-to-face” crimes, such as theft and robbery. These crimes are rare too, so they’re not anything to worry too much about either. That’s because common sense (i.e. take your wallet with you when going to the bathroom, lock your doors when you leave the house/hotel) will usually be enough to deter thieves. Just use what your momma gave you — your brain!
Tip: There are neighborhoods that are more dangerous than others. But the places most tourists/foreigners are interested in (i.e. Hongdae, Myeongdong, Insadong, Gangnam, etc.) are very safe.
Traffic in Korea
Although you don’t have to worry about violent crimes while you’re walking down the streets of Seoul, you definitely have to be aware of cars. That’s because cars (especially those in Seoul) are extremely aggressive, even with pedestrians. If you’re walking down a small street, be aware. Many cars will come zooming past you really, really close. If you make one step to the left or the right, you might be in trouble. You can always give them stank eye, but that’s pointless if you’re on your way to the hospital. Also, be careful of big streets. Even when the signal tells you to walk, you still might find some super aggressive driver that sees you walking but thinks he can squeeze past you. Walking the streets of Seoul can be scary for those not used to it. And if you’re a tourist or new to living in Korea, it’s something we recommend being aware of.
Tip: Be careful of buses too. They’re just as aggressive. And bigger!
Taxis deserve their own section on this list. Not to say all taxi drivers are criminals. Far from it! The majority of taxi rides end with no problems at all. But they do come with some unique problems. First, taxis are notorious for being extremely agressive. It’s probably a few drivers giving the rest a bad reputation, but you should take note of them when crossing or walking in narrow streets. And a few years ago they were notorious for being really mean and robbing unsuspecting tourists or foreign residents of money. But Korea’s been trying to clean this up and recently have started to offer cash rewards for reporting such activities. But we suggest you give this a read anyway :):
How to Not Get Ripped Off by Taxi Drivers