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Is it Safe to Travel to South Korea Right Now? Even for a Quick Visit ... a Look at Safety and Whether it is Dangerous

Updated on May 15, 2017

The initial reaction!

I'm not sure why, but when you tell someone that you are heading to South Korea, they either act shocked, or are very concerned about your safety. When I first told my family that I was going to Korea, they seemed quite concerned. There is a lot of confusion about the country and it is unfortunately often connected with North Korea, yet is nothing like it's sibling.

Dynamic Korea

South Korea likes to be known as Dynamic, as they have made incredible developments and changes from the past. In the last 20 years or so, Korea has evolved from being one of the poorest countries in the world, to having a booming economy, high end technology, amazing infrastructure (Trains, roads, buses, hospitals, police etc) and some of the most honest people I have ever met.

Yet, people always wonder about whether it is safe to travel to South Korea and after being here a year, I have to answer with a BIG YES. Why, well because their seems to be almost no crime here. It is quite amazing compared to the UK. In the UK, if you go out on the town, you expect to see fights braking out at some point. However, in a year here, I have only seen a single 'verbal argument' (certainly nothing to run to the airport over). Everybody has ID cards, fingerprints in a database and CCTV covers the country. Hence, to be a criminal, you have to be pretty brave and incredibly smart to get away with it more than once, as a single print or camera image will lead police to your door. Not only that, it is impossible to get a phone, Internet, bank account or anything else without an up-to-date ID card.

Although I'm sure that this level of security has played a part, all the people I have met here are incredible sincere and generous. They don't seem to be interested in handouts, scamming people, or any underhand activity. They seem to have a huge amount of pride in being Korean, and as a Korean, they are brought up to really think about how their actions could affect others and the future. Similar to the idea of stepping on a butterfly if you went back in time, Koreans take great care about their actions, trying to influence the best future outcome possible.

Travel tips South Korea

One of the best travel tips I can give is for when you arrive. Go to the information desk and ask for the 'Tourist Information' phone number. Korea actually has a multilingual helpline setup especially to help tourists. Whether you need help with train times, directions for the taxi driver, or tips on where to visit, these guys are amazingly helpful.

Although you can call from any landlines, I recommend that you also consider a rental mobile. These are located in the main hall in the airport, after you clear all the checks. A few companies rent out the mobiles for quite low fees, which means that you can be connected and get help at anytime.

Another point to consider is that many Koreans may know English, but can be shy to speak. Give them time to respond and a smile for encouragement. It will also help if you can speak a little slower (OK, if you are a jabber mouth like me, you may have to bring it down to 30% of normal). However, take the time to get to know a Korean and they will be an amazing friend, keen to show your their way of life, and most likely to introduce you to a Korean style night of drinking.

If you do go drinking with a Korean, be prepared! I thought I could handle my booze, but my god these guys love to party. They are all happy drunks (well, all I have seen), but drinking past the point of being sick or losing consciousness is actually quite common here on a night out (not my style, but each to their own). Have fun and drink, but do not try to take them on in a competition ... they will win! lol

Drinking here is a big social event, so you may also want to brush up on some customs. Things like turning your head to your shoulder and drinking when in the presence of someone older is something they will greatly appreciate you doing. If someone older offers you a drink, you MUST accept it. However, you can just bring it to your lips in the aforementioned style and put it down (you do not have to down it or even drink it). Actually, it would be best on reading a few life customs too. A simple bow when you meet a Korean can really help you to look good as a foreigner, as it shows you have not only taken the time to learn a little of their culture, but also that you are willing to adapt to their culture while in their country.

Final point, anyone who doesn't like meat should learn a few Korean phrases. As in Korea, almost everyone loves meat and eats incredible quantities. South Korea food is normally meat based and served up in many delicious styles. Traveling Korea as a veggie can be challenging, but not impossible.

Visiting South Korea

So, if you are considering a trip here, I highly recommend it. It is a fun and very affordable country to travel. Accommodation is reasonable ($30+ per night, normally under $100) and public transport is not only cheap, but also highly efficient!

If you are not a lover of heat, check out the winter vacation options. South Korea, particularly the Gangwon-do area, has an incredible amount of mountains, many of which are perfect for skiing. Also, there are some extremely reputable ski resorts, which again are very affordable. This means that you can explore the scenery and try your hand at a bit of skiing or snowboarding.


** Update **

While generally South Korea is very safe, with recent threats from North Korea, things are a little less certain. Please check the news with your embassy, as the previous peace may be broken, unless things are resolved quickly. Depending on these actions, please look at the big picture and talk with embassies/travel agents before booking.

South Korea has just been hit with a massive cyber attack on banking and media networks. These attacks took down these networks yesterday (20/03/2013). The attack was from a powerful virus called "DarkSeoul". It is not the most advanced seen, but is a serious concern as it renders computer system unusable and avoids detection by many antivirus systems.

There is a lot of speculation that this attack was from North Korea and could be targeted at the US. At the very least, it is reported that the US is concerned, as this virus actually wiped out the networks and apparently the US doesn't have contingency plans in place for this scale of attack. If this is true, then it is certain quite concerning!

At this time, banks are reporting both hacking attacks and this virus. Some banks lost functionality in infected branches and ATMs, as the attack erased all files ... wiping the data completely. The hacking was also a concern, but so far did not succeed.

It is not sure if this is a North Korean attack on South Korea, or if this originated else where. However, the fact that banking systems and media are vulnerable to this attack is very concerning in my mind.

Those interested may find this site interesting:

##### Update 27/03/2013 ####

North Korea Threatens US Military Bases

North Korea has made a threat to attack all US military bases. This statement/threat was reportedly made on Tuesday and said that they would attack all bases around the globe, including those in South Korea. However, the US seems confident that they can fend off any attempted attacks on their bases and successfully protect their allies. Living in the area, I can confirm that the US and South Korea have really stepped up military presence, with jets frequently flying around ... prepared for any move it seems. I really hope this is the case!

For more details, please read:

@@@@ UPDATE 04/10/2013 @@@@

OK, so as far as the people go, it is business as usual here on the ground. Everyone seems pretty unconcerned by the rhetoric of North Korea, apparently as this is something that has been happening regularly for about 50 years. They do not seem to think that the North will attack.

However, North Korea has requested that foreigners vacate the South for their own safety. Yet, having checked the UK advice for travelers, the UK does not perceive that there is any increased risk.

It is reported that if something is going to happen, that it is likely to be on the 10th or 15th. This is the leaders birthday and the anniversary of the North Korean army's formation. That said, it is suspected that the leader is trying to prove his strength rather than start an actual war. He is reportedly trying to show his people that he is strong. This is currently heightened by the leader currently being surrounded by hundreds of armored vehicles (this is reported from a friend interested in politics), as he is apparently concerned for his life, possibly due to an uncle that is unhappy with his leadership skills. Hence, it is suspected that the show of strength may be a small attack on an outpost or ship, not enough to cause a full war, but enough to impress the people.

That said, the worst case scenario I recently saw on the news was an outright attack on Seoul and major cities. It is reported that they only have low power nuclear devices, but that these could cause damage to say an entire district of Seoul. Initially it would take a few days for the combined forces of South Korea, the USA and Japan to control the skies. Then up to about a week to completely control North Korea and damage the infrastructure like communications, bases, bridges etc.

Personally I don't think an outright war will happen, at least I really hope not. But, in the meantime I will be avoiding the cities for the time being, at least until after the 15th.

@@@@ UPDATE 20/02/2014 @@@@

It has been a while now and nothing serious occurred. Hopefully this will be the end of it, but if something serious happens, I will return to updating on the situation.

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    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I always thought it would be too scary to go to South Korea but it sounds overall safe. I have to admit I lumped both North and South Korea together so this article was informative. I'm such a lightweight so the tip to pretend to drink if entering a drinking contest was helpful-LOL. I saw the updates and was wondering if it was safe at the moment. Voted up and shared!

    • Brett.Tesol profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett C 

      6 years ago from Asia

      @everymom, as far as I know, there are not any landmines in the normal areas of South Korea. There maybe some in military zones and possibly deep jungle areas, but not anywhere you could easily stumble across by accident. The area is very modern and safe, so I expect they were all cleared.

    • everymom profile image

      Anahi Pari-di-Monriva 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      This is a great hub;thank you. Can I ask you about something I'd read about South Korea almost ten years back (when I was thinking of going abroad to teach English): are there lots of land mines still in South Korea? Just asking, as I remembered my past reading while reading your hub! Thanks! But, thanks to your Hub and threats from North Korea aside, I think South Korea sounds like a great place to visit with my daughter!

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 

      6 years ago from Asia, and all over

      Good updates, thanks. Being an American living in China, I maintain careful watch on this. So many thoughts and predictions I have, but will just have to live life as normal and see what happens. I don't believe in living life based on what "might" happen. There's always something going on somewhere. Voted up and interesting.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      Thanks for the reports about South Korea in view of the threats from North Korea. I have never been to South Korea, however I lived in Taiwan for many years 1968-1979. During this period, there was always a big concern expressed by the government about Chinese Communist subversive activities. Actually, the whole island was under martial rule during this period. I remember having regularly scheduled civil defense exercises up until 1978 where all people had to clear the streets for a certain time during the afternoon hours. During that period, at least we didn't have to worry about the Communists having nuclear weapons. I do plan on visiting South Korea during the future, but it won't be anytime soon. Voted up and sharing with followers. Also Pinning and Tweeting.

    • Natashalh profile image


      6 years ago from Hawaii

      No crime - wow. The last couple of places I've visited have had some crime problems, for sure.

      Right now I'm in Guam and my mom has been freaking out for weeks about its 'proximity' to North Korea, so that must be part of why people think SK isn't safe.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Right now I do not think that I would put visiting South Korea high on my vacation bucket list with the saber rattling taking place right now with the new regime in North Korea. Hopefully things will quiet down soon especially with China's help. Stay safe my friend! The recent news is certainly alarming. Re-sharing.

    • Angel21518 profile image


      6 years ago

      Enjoyable and informative read! I now have a different perspective on South Korea.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      An interesting Hub about South Korea, not every place can be harmony or peaceful and quiet I have learned lots about the place and so glad you to have seen this hub. I too was confused about South Korea now I am at ease.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      This was so interesting and educational Brett. We know so little about South Korea and having you there certainly gives us an edge! Not only your information about South Korea but your updates with the situation in North Korea make this more than just a travel hub. Thank you and be safe my friend.

      Voted up, useful, interesting and shared.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      6 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I have thought about you many times since the news began about the possible attacks on South Korea. I am glad to hear that you are not too worried about what we have been hearing. I would love to visit South Korea someday. I have always heard that it was a beautiful country with very friendly people and I have read some of your hubs on the Korean culture as well. This hub is very interesting and I appreciate the fact that you have done updates as news unfolds. I realize no one knows for sure what is going to happen there, but you are thoughtful to add the updates to your hub. Hopefully, soon you will be able to add that all is well and the danger is over. Take care over there, my friend! Voted up, interesting, and sharing! :)

    • Ingenira profile image


      6 years ago

      I am actually in Seoul now. Apart from the alarming English news on TV, the people here live their lives as usual.

    • profile image


      6 years ago


      Thank you so much for your time :D

      i know i am responsible of my own acts and choices so don't worry i will think about it very seriously :)

      i just needed a foreigner general point of view. it is hard to analyze the situation from here, Europe i mean!

      once again, thank you for your help!!!!!!



    • Brett.Tesol profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett C 

      6 years ago from Asia

      @ BiBinini

      Thank you for your detailed comment, I will do my best to answer your questions. But please be aware that I am not giving advice or telling you what you should do ... that is your choice/responsibility. I am not a professional of the political scene and can only relay what I am seeing here in South Korea and finding out via friends and the media.

      I have updated this article for you. I hope that you can have a safe holiday, but wanted to try to cover all angles for you. Please also do some research in other places, as it is possible I may have missed some details, or have them wrong.

    • profile image


      6 years ago


      thank you for your article. i am a belgian girl and i have planned to go to Seoul like more than a month ago. flight ticket and hotel all booked. but recently the situation seems pretty intense.

      as you are living in korea, could please let us know how the situation in South Koreais right now? how 's life right now in Seoul? is everybody worried?

      I'm going to korea this week and i am so worried...

      Thank you very much for your time!!!

      i hope to read more about this wonderful country :)


    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      6 years ago from USA

      I have to admit that I was curious about South Korea. Not counting the actively current threats, South Korea seems like a wonderful place to be. I actually like the idea of having cameras everywhere. I think that could be the biggest deterrent to crime in America. I know a lot of people would find your hub informative. Sharing!

    • Brett.Tesol profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett C 

      6 years ago from Asia


      Thank you for your comment. Although I can't give you advice, I can tell you that life seems to be as normal here. Most Korean friends seem unconcerned by recent threats. Those who have been here a while also tell me that the DMZ is armed with a special defensive grade that automatically shoots down missiles. I personally feel safe, but obviously it is your choice if you travel or not. Presently people do not seem concerned though.

      I hope you get to enjoy your trip without any problems. I really like South Korea and it's culture

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi, thanks for this hub. I really agree to what you are saying that South Korea is very safe but with the recent conflicts I am really worried. We have already planned in advance our trip to Korea even before this recent conflicts unfold. And our trip is on the 1st week of April. Would really like to know how you and the Koreans in the south are feeling? Is the country under great tension with the recent threat? I don't really know if we really should push through. I was so looking forward this trip.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Interesting customs, and interesting updates from there. take care, Brett!

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      South Korea and its people sound most visitor-friendly, but for now will put off any travel plans until the uncertainty of North Korea's potential actions has been resolved.

      Thank you for the heads-up on the DarkSeoul virus.

      Great hub; voted up and Shared.

    • Brett.Tesol profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett C 

      6 years ago from Asia

      USA Concerned about cyber attack on South Korea and threats to the US ... more info here.

    • Brett.Tesol profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett C 

      6 years ago from Asia

      @joym7 Thanks for the kind words. I know many don't know much about this country. Hence, this hub was born. I hope that it will help to increase people's confidence that it is generally very safe to travel South Korea. But, that they should always check the embassy first for the latest warnings/concerns.

    • joym7 profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      thanks for sharing information about South Korea. Evey tourist who wants to visit there must read this hub. Shared and Voted Up.

    • Brett.Tesol profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett C 

      6 years ago from Asia

      Thanks, I agree that it is a great place to travel. You just have to keep an eye on external factors ... like the north. However, in the past, they have mainly been 'verbal threats' ... so let's hope for the same thing here.

    • idigwebsites profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      My sister went for a holiday abroad for the first time, and since she's a K-pop fan she (along with her officemates) traveled to South Korea (in Incheon and Seoul) last November. Though she had to put up with the extremely chilly weather, she had a great time there, and she went home here safely. I would love to consider traveling there too.

    • torrilynn profile image


      6 years ago

      Hey Brett,

      really great hub that you have here

      thanks for the read

    • cjpooja26 profile image

      Sakhi Deshmukh 

      6 years ago from India

      Very useful..I want to visit south Korea..

    • chamilj profile image


      7 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Very useful information. I wish to visit South Korea one day. Voted up and shared.

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      I have a great interest in South Korea. The way of life there and the customs intrigue me. From what I have read concerning Koreans they are a very hospitable and respectful people. They are so respectful it even extends to Hangul. I think the place I'd like to visit most in Korea is Jeju. I have read a lot about it and it is on my list of places I'd like to visit.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      So nice to hear about your impressions regarding South Korea first hand. I never thought of it as unsafe but certainly learned some things from you that I did not know (like the high meat consumption + alcohol consumption). Interesting, useful and up votes plus sharing.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      7 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      Very interesting hub! Thanks for SHARING this as I am very interested to know something about every country in the world. I think some people think North Korea when they heard something about South Korea. Voted up and useful.

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      7 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      It is sure a far cry from what it was during the Korean conflict. Even the pictures shown now are way different. I do know in the late seventies it was the station of choice for many military personal. I actually tried to be stationed there myself. It didn't work, they already had a waiting list of people with my training. Voted up, interesting, and sharing with my fans on facebook.

    • cebutouristspot profile image


      7 years ago from Cebu

      Danger exist at every corner of the world. Knowing what place have a greater potential of being more dangerous is helpful but I don't think the whole country is unsafe. I believe South Korea is a safe as any other place out there :)

    • Brett.Tesol profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett C 

      7 years ago from Asia

      Hi Travelgurrl.

      Yea, the border is probably the worst part, but even that is actually pretty safe. You can do tours of it too.

    • mary-deo profile image


      7 years ago from Caloocan City, University Hills

      For whatever destination we wanted to start our journey, being ready is a must. South Korea has various must-see landmarks so it must be included on your travel list. Enjoyed reading this hub.

    • travelgurrl profile image


      7 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Just stay away from the border, right? :) Seoul is on my top ten places to visit in the next five years, I've heard it's incredible.

    • gjfalcone profile image


      7 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona

      I had the pleasure of a short stay while serving in the USAF. I believe it was Osan Air Base but that was 30 years ago. I hope your memories will be as fond as mine.

      Thanks For SHARING Brett.

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I never thought of South Korea as unsafe -- maybe North Korea. Voting this Up and Useful. Thanks for SHARING.

    • Brett.Tesol profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett C 

      7 years ago from Asia

      Hi Moiragallaga,

      Yea, I would say that South Korea is easier and safer to travel than most western countries, including the UK and US. Thanks for the votes

    • Brett.Tesol profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett C 

      7 years ago from Asia

      Hi Snurre,

      Glad you enjoyed it. I think that you are right, North Korea has dramatically affected the image of South Korea, despite them being very different.

    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Brett.Tesol, I'll validate your point about South Korea being a safe place to visit. From my husband's and my experience travelling to South Korea, it is as you have described it. Very informative and useful hub. Voted up!

    • Snurre profile image


      8 years ago

      I have no idea why people think South Korea is dangerous. Perhaps they confuse it with North Korea.

      Interesting hub. Enjoyed reading it.


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