Is South Korea Safe? 8 Things You Should Know – Seoulistic

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!

North 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.

Natural Disasters

2. Volcanoes

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?

3. Earthquakes

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

7. Cars

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 in any case, we suggest you give this a read:
How to Not Get Ripped Off by Taxi Drivers

Keith Kim is a Korean-American who has been living in Korea for almost a decade. Being in a unique position as both a Korean and a non-Korean, he's put all his experience and knowledge for surviving in Korea in Survival Korean . Read it to learn how you can survive in Korea. Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.


  1. I’m happy to say that South Korea is one of the safest places I have ever been. Even when my girlfriends and I walked home alone, drunk men on the streets always minded their own business. Of course we didn’t do this often or on purpose, but we wouldn’t dare do this back home in Los Angeles!

    Also, Korean students usually leave their belongings at the table when using the restroom at the library, or lining up at the cafeteria. Back home, signs are posted in the library to keep us aware of possible theft. Also, I left my phone in the library and found it at the lost and found right away. 🙂

    • Gerry meekison says:

      I visited Korea a couple years ago and was totally amazed how safe it was 24 hours a day. I found the most friendly Koreans where the children, they seemed of have no problem saying hello and using some of the English they learned, it was one of my best memory’s of Korea. Cheers

  2. YMY says:

    So far South Korea is the safest country to visit even you are alone. You don’t feel intimidated by the local and you feel safe using the public transport or walking around the city at night alone. I’ve been to Korea 3 times already and will be going again for the fourth time. Travelling solo this time around 🙂

    • Haleema says:

      I don’t mean to be forward or rude but I noticed from your display picture that you are a muslim. As a muslim muslim myself I was wondering whether you were treated any different. I have heard that South Korea is a very conservative country and, although unintentionally, may treat muslims differently. I’d like to know more about your experience in South Korea if possible 🙂

      • Young says:

        There are many Muslim women travelling in Korea (mostly from South East Asia), and they seem to have no problems. You are unlikely to be physically assaulted with racial motives etc. However, bear in mind that Koreans do not view Islam favourably (due to recent events around the world), and they may question you about your religion, etc.

        Some may ask you ‘why you don’t eat pork’ or ‘why in Islam this or that’ type of questions, but mostly they do that out of curiosity, not malice. If you are coming to Korea as a tourist, you are guaranteed to be safe if you keep common sense. If you come to Korea for studying or work, you are also likely to be safe. But Koreans expect you to abide by their culture. While they may have no problem with you wearing hijab or something, being too picky about food or culture for religious reasons can alienate you.

  3. Hui W says:

    I really enjoyed reading this, the U.S news here are making the whole Korean war thing sound really scary and since I have so many friends there, and that I have been wanted to go back to Korea, the news here aren’t helping me feel better at all. Other than the war, the traffics, taxis and “crimes” really don’t scare me that much because I grew up in China and it is very similar to Korea.

  4. Ren says:

    First of all I’d like to say that I really like your blog. It has a lot of interesting stuff about Korea! Little by little I gain knowledge about the place. My friend and I would love to work there. The bigg

  5. Ren says:

    ****First of all I’d like to say that I really like your blog. It has a lot of interesting stuff about Korea! Little by little I gain knowledge about the place. My friend and I are thinking of working there! We’ve been really worried after finding out that there NK waged a war/ threatened SK with war…. then I asked my Korean friend about it, and he said that they do that all the time and that I should not worry. I’m a bit worried after he said that but reading your blog and Keith’s blog… it kind of died down. Now I really wanna go there!!! (Still hoping that NK won’t attack tho)

    Keep up the good work; this is really helpful ^^

  6. Sunny says:

    Your comment.Heys, guys these days, Korean peopl are enjoying cherry blossom festrival. Korean people love foreigners a lot. You are kind of idols. Come and enjoy itand you wil surely love Korea. A lot of foreigners take their memory to their home country ever.
    If interested in working here in Korea, I could give some advice or position/:)

  7. mish says:

    @Sunny, hi, i really interested living there in korea .Could i have your email address?

  8. expatseek says:

    Korea could easily be the safest country in the world. There is practically no street crime, no theft, and there are plenty of children walking around at nights unsupervised – suggesting, of course, a country where it is safe to do so. Public safety is one thing Koreans have gotten extremely right!

  9. Michelle says:

    I’ve been told that the drinking water in Seoul isn’t the greatest. I’m from the US and would I have GI issues (eg. diarrhea) if I drank the water? I also love street food and my Korean mother-in-law has warned me about eating food from food carts. I don’t know if I could travel there without trying the food!!! Please allay my fears about the water, but tell me the truth if I would get sick.

  10. Suzanne says:

    Michelle, my husband is there now and has had no issues with the water. We will be joining him soon with our family.

  11. Romeo E says:

    Hey there,
    Thit is a great article. I had a question though. Do you know anything about Jeju? Particularly Seopwipo City. I am considering taking an international internship at the Lotte Hotel and Resort and I was wondering if these all apply, and also wonder if you have been there yourself?

  12. E. Moon says:

    Keith, can you tell me a little about some of the neighborhoods in Seoul that wouldn’t be the best for a young, small female to love alone? You mentioned that there are some, but that they aren’t frequented as much by tourists. I am planning to live in Seoul for a summer program, and haven’t learned much about places to avoid. Thanks!

  13. FuzzyBlueApe says:

    When I was in Korea a few months ago, I felt completely safe walking around late at night down some random alley with $$$$ worth of camera gear. Definitely not something I would do here in some parts of San Diego!

    80% of my eating consisted of street food. Never a health issue and I rarely ate at the same cart twice.

    I was a little surprised at how aggressive drivers are there. The lights often times seem to be more of a suggestion than anything. But the worst part that nobody warned me about were the motorbikes all over the sidewalks and narrow alleys. I’m talking driving around pedestrians like a human slalom race. Never assume you have the right of way with a vehicle!

    In general, Koreans either completely ignored me or were very friendly. Altho I did get chastised by an ajumma for not stowing my backpack on the subway rack on a crowded car. Sadly I had not read the “subway etiquette” article until after I had returned. Then I understood what she was talking about when she kept slapping my pack and saying “up!” “up!”. =) Some old, hunched over guy gave me the hardest look I’ve ever gotten from anybody while I was minding my own business walking down the street. That was the only time I got a “we don’t like foreigners” vibe from anyone there.

    It’s a great place, and can’t wait to go back!

  14. Michael says:

    I would be coming to south korea in march and would love to stay for a very long time provide if I have a good job but the problem is I don’t know how to speak the language so my question is,how possible is it to get a job?

  15. ChuckVicious says:

    KOREA is an ADVANCED SOCIETY. Much better than most ! Not dangerous at all . Nicest people ever !

    THANKS – Chuck-USA-Memphis

  16. Estrelia says:

    안녕 !!!
    When I came in Korea, I didn’t expected this but I have been very surprised of how much I feel safe. Any time I want to, 24/7 I can walk around without fearing to be agressed. So many times I had forgotten my cellphone in restaurants, shops, and I got it back.

    • 민호 says:

      So rude! When taking to strangers you should use more formal of language! 안녕하세요 is the correct way to say it to strangers!

      • Estrelia says:

        안녕 하십니까 민호 씨 !

        Sure I will not tell 안녕 to a Korean person that I don’t know!
        Sorry I offended you but I was talking to a foreigner it sounded like a ” Hi ” not a ” Good Morning/Afternoon ”

        P.S : (as a foreigner) I think it is rude to talk to a person without greeting him/her.

    • Bk says:

      Never mind that guy…안녕 is totally ok as long as you are considered as no native korean 🙂

  17. Just a random Korean University Student says:

    Well, as a korean who spends a lot of time on English culture, I can say this article is quite accurate 🙂 I’ll just make some notes
    Subways: are really well maintained, altough it gets REALLY DAMN crowded in rush hours.
    Guns: I can assure you that even if you lived in Korea for decades, you’d never see one. You’ll probably never see any life-threatening crimes. I personally never got into any crimes living here all my life.
    Streets: Yup. There’s a lot of cars. And the rules are really loose. You don’t get to courts unless it’s a real big one, also you don’t get fined much on breaking rules. And I think this kinda resulted in this super aggressive diriving habits. It’s not like you’ll get in accidents all the time(probably because everyone is used to it), but well…it can get somewhat freaky from time to time.

    Ah, and also @ Estrelia please don’t mind that dude. I smell a kid on the internet.

  18. Jess says:

    Iam korean and this article/blog describes very well in every aspect 🙂

  19. Kaley Kinjo says:

    Hello, I’m passing through Incheon from Okinawa, JP, then to Seattle, en route to home in Canada. With the growing tensions between US and North Korea, should I be worried about passing through Incheon in mid-June? Do you think that the situation will escalate further? I will be in the airport for a total of probably five hours. I will be travelling with a keyboard hard case and a suitcase. Any advice, reassurance, or suggestions you have would be helpful. Thank you!

  20. sasha says:

    You would like this article for sure – proceed with the link

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