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SOUTH KOREA - Exercise normal security precautions
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for South Korea. Exercise normal security precautions.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.
Tensions between South Korea and North Korea
Tensions have increased on the Korean peninsula as a result of North Korea's ongoing nuclear weapons development program and provocative statements. In April and December 2012, North Korea attempted to launch two missiles into orbit, and on February 12, 2013, performed a nuclear weapon test. Additional tests cannot be ruled out.
On March 11, 2013, North Korea issued a statement declaring that the Korean Armistice Agreement is invalid. While past threats made by the North to nullify this agreement have gone unfulfilled, further provocative action could occur.
Despite recent statements issued by the North Korean government, we continue to advise that there is no immediate threat to Canadians in South Korea. However, border skirmishes occur occasionally, most recently in August 2015. The security situation could deteriorate suddenly and tensions could escalate with little warning. Be vigilant, monitor developments and follow the advice of local authorities. We strongly recommend that Canadians register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to receive latest updates.
Crime against foreigners is generally low. Remain aware of your surroundings and avoid walking alone after dark. The use of public transport after dark may be safer than using taxis when travelling alone. However, when subway and bus services end for the night, use officially marked taxis only and, if possible, do not travel alone. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.
The Korean National Police operates a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Central Interpretation Centre where foreigners can report crimes (in Seoul, telephone 313-0842; elsewhere, 02-313-0842).
Sexual assaults against foreigners have occurred. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.
Political, labour and student demonstrations and marches can become confrontational or violent. Exercise caution, avoid areas where demonstrations are being held and avoid confrontations with protestors.
The rate of fatal road accidents is very high. Automobile drivers are presumed to be at fault in accidents involving motorcycles or pedestrians. Criminal charges and heavy penalties are common when accidents result in injury.
Taxi drivers may speak some English. Have your destination written in Korean.
A high-speed train (KTX) links Seoul and major southern cities such as Busan, Gwangju and Mokpo.
Do not expect safety standards to be the same as in Canada.
Dial 112 to reach police and 119 for ambulance and firefighters. An English interpretation service is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the South Korean authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea or one of its consulates for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Korea, which must be valid beyond the date of expected departure from Korea.
Tourist visa: Not required (for stays less than 180 days)
Business visa: Not required (for stays less than 30 days)
Student visa: Required
Working visa: Required (must be obtained outside South Korea)
Foreigners must register their biometrics (fingerprints and facial scan) at their port of entry. Children under 17 years of age and diplomats are exempt from this screening.
Travellers entering South Korea are subject to a body temperature check and, in some cases, may be quarantined for medical observation if they show flu-like symptoms.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
- Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) - August 4, 2015 11:12 EDT
- Measles: Global Update - July 16, 2015 09:48 EDT
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending a large amount of time outdoors) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Tick-borne encephalitis is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. It is spread to humans by the bite of an infected tick. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to ticks (e.g., those participating in outdoor activities in wooded areas) while travelling in regions with risk of tick-borne encephalitis.
Yellow Fever Vaccination
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in East Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers at high risk visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in Eastern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Hand, foot and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that mainly affects infants and children. Travellers are at increased risk if visiting or living in overcrowded conditions. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against this disease.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
The medical facilities in Korea are generally very good. There are international clinics in general hospitals in major cities such as Seoul, Busan and Daegu. Canadian consular officials can provide a list of hospitals upon request.
Korean medical institutions insist that fees be paid in full before the patient is discharged. They will not charge insurance companies directly.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws & culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and detention page and our Overview of the criminal law system in South Korea for more information.
Male dual citizens whose names appear on the Korean Family Relation Certificate may be subject to compulsory military service, even when entering the Republic of Korea on a Canadian passport. Before travelling to Korea, Canadian males of Korean origin may need to renounce their Korean citizenship or have their names removed from the Korean Family Relation Certificate to gain exemption from this requirement. Contact the nearest Korean embassy or consulate for more information.
The number of Canadians arrested and detained for drug-related charges has increased significantly. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines and deportation. Minor violations, including smoking minute quantities of an illegal drug, such as marijuana, in a private home, can lead to detention even before the trial has begun.
Tourists are required to make a declaration to customs officers if they are entering or leaving the country with more than the equivalent of US$10,000, including local currency.
Penalties for drinking and driving are strict. Convicted offenders can expect heavy fines and jail sentences.
Photography of military installations or government buildings is illegal.
An International Driving Permit is required.
Contracts to teach English (arranged by recruiters in Canada) should be carefully reviewed before being signed. There have been reports that some contracts have been modified after the fact. Ensure all terms and conditions of employment are clearly stated before accepting an offer and ensure that you meet all the necessary requirements. The Korean government investigates the use of fraudulent documents, university degrees and ESL certificates. Penalties for using fraudulent documents include arrest, deportation and restrictions on re-entry. Be aware that written contracts are not binding documents. Verbal agreements often take precedence over written agreements. Consult our publication entitled Teaching English in Korea for more information.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in South Korea. However, Canadian officials may be limited in their ability to provide you with consular services if local authorities consider you a South Korean citizen. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
You must meet certain criteria to be recognized as a Canadian-Korean citizen by Korean authorities. If you think you may have a claim to Korean citizenship, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Korea or one of its consulates.
The currency is the won (KRW). Traveller's cheques are accepted at all chartered banks (Eunhaeng in Korean). U.S. dollar traveller's cheques are recommended for the best exchange rate. Some major banks have automated banking machines (ABMs) that accept international debit or credit cards. The amount allowed per withdrawal may be quite low, rendering the service charge disproportionately high. Most ABMs that can be used to draw money from Canadian bank accounts offer English instructions. Major foreign credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) are widely accepted by hotels and other tourist facilities and are generally regarded as safe to use.
When transferring funds from Korea to Canada, a local bank will place a stamp in your passport stating how much was transferred, in keeping with Korea's Foreign Currency Control Act. If you are working in Korea and paying Korean income tax, you can transfer your entire income based on your tax payment certificate.
Natural disasters & climate
Natural disasters & climate
The rainy (monsoon) season extends from the end of June until August. July is usually the wettest month. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides. Typhoons occur in August and September. These storms can result in significant loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure, and can hamper the provision of essential services. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities. Consult our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.
Pollution levels peak in March, April and May (due to yellow dust).
Seoul - Embassy of Canada
Busan - Consulate of Canada
For emergency assistance after hours, call the Embassy of Canada in Seoul and follow the instructions. You may also call the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa toll-free at 001-800-2326-6831, 002-800-2326-6831 or 008-800-2326-6831, or make a collect call by dialling 613-996-8885.
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