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South Korea - Take normal security precautions
Take normal security precautions in South Korea.
Safety and security
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula could escalate with little notice and the security situation could deteriorate suddenly. Tensions may increase before, during and after North Korean nuclear and missile tests, military exercises or as the result of incidents or military activities at or near the inter-Korean border.
Monitor developments, remain vigilant and follow the instructions of local authorities. We strongly recommend that Canadians register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to receive the latest updates.
Registration of Canadians Abroad
Crime against foreigners is generally low. Petty crime occurs in major metropolitan areas, tourist sites and public markets. Remain aware of your surroundings in crowded entertainment, nightlife and shopping districts.
Avoid walking alone, especially after dark. Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times.
You can report crimes to the Korean National Police Agency by dialling 112. This is a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week service. For non-Korean speakers, the police will link an interpreter into the call.
Women travelling alone may be subject to certain forms of harassment.
Safe travel guide for women
Political, labour and student demonstrations and marches may occur. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)
The rate of fatal road accidents is very high. Check carefully before crossing the road. Vehicles may not stop at pedestrian crossings. Use underground or above-ground pedestrian crossings, where available.
Speeding, running red lights, lane changes without signalling and other risky driving behaviours are common, particularly by buses, taxis and motorcyclists. Motorcycles are sometimes driven on sidewalks.
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. Even if negligence is not proven, you may be subject to criminal charges.
The use of public transport after dark may be safer than using taxis when travelling alone. When subway and bus services end for the night, use officially marked taxis only. Taxis may not be equipped with seatbelts. Drivers may speak some English, but have your destination written in Korean.
High-speed train services (KTX and SRT) link Seoul and major southern cities such as Busan, Gwangju and Mokpo.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines
Civil emergency exercises
Civil emergency exercises are held 8 times a year for fires, earthquakes, other disasters and civil defence drills. Nationwide exercises take place in March, May, August and September. Regional exercises occur each year in April, June, October and November. Depending on the exercise, sirens may sound, transport may stop and authorities may ask some people to take shelter in metro stations or basements. While visitor participation is not necessary, familiarize yourself with procedures and check local announcements for further exercises.
Emergency assistance mobile application
The Ministry of the Interior and Safety offers a free emergency assistance mobile application called Emergency Ready (available on Google Play and iTunes). The app allows users to contact emergency services, locate the closest medical centre or shelter and view first aid videos.
Novel coronavirus in China
There is an outbreak of a novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in China. It may affect your travels.
- Read the Public Health Agency of Canada’s latest update on COVID-19.
- Check your destination’s entry and exit requirements and restrictions specific to the current situation with the nearest foreign diplomatic mission or consulate.
- Expect increased health screening measures at points of entry, including airports.
- Monitor the news for the latest developments on the evolving situation.
- Follow the instructions of local authorities.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update – Public Health Agency of Canada
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the South Korean authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid beyond the date of expected departure from South Korea.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Tourist visa: Not required (for stays less than 180 days)
Business visa: Not required (for stays less than 180 days)
Student visa: Required
Working visa: Required (must be obtained outside South Korea)
You can’t change your visa status once you’re in South Korea.
If you wish to extend the length of your visa, contact the Korea Immigration Service as soon as possible to apply for an extension. Authorities strictly enforce immigration laws and regulations.
More information about visas - Korea Immigration Service
Foreigners must register their biometrics (fingerprints and facial scan) at their port of entry. Children younger than 17 years and diplomats are exempt from this screening.
The Korea Immigration Service will screen your body temperature upon your arrival at the airport. They may test you for infectious diseases including cholera and Zika virus. In some cases, authorities may quarantine you for medical observation if you show flu-like symptoms or test positive for an infectious disease.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
- Global Measles Notice - July 23, 2019
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health professional 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. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
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 (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
- Tick-borne encephalitis is present in some areas of this country.
- It is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
- It is spread to humans by the bite of infected ticks or when you consume unpasteurized milk products.
- Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to ticks during outdoor activities.
- A vaccine against TBE does exist but is only available in countries where the disease is present.
- Learn more on what you can do to prevent tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)?
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
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.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* 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.
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 children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in Eastern Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, Lyme disease, malaria, and tick-borne encephalitis.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently a risk of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- 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.
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.
Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.
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 professional.
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
Medical services and facilities meet Canadian standards. Private hospitals and clinics located in cities are often better staffed and equipped than public or rural facilities. Payment is expected at time of service. Korean medical institutions will not charge insurance companies directly.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Travel health and safety
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 and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Police may confiscate your passport and/or detain you during an investigation.
Overview of the criminal law system in South Korea
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines and deportation. Minor violations, including smoking small quantities of an illegal drug such as cannabis (even in a private home) can result in pre-trial detention.
Support for anti-government organizations
South Korea’s National Security Law prohibits statements and materials that praise anti-government organizations.
Photography of military installations and government buildings is illegal.
You must carry an International Driving Permit or a South Korean driver’s licence.
Penalties for drinking and driving are severe. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05%. If the police suspect you of drinking and driving, they could confiscate your driver’s licence on the spot. If you’re convicted, you can expect heavy fines and a jail sentence.
More about the International Driving Permit
Carefully review any contract to teach English in South Korea before signing it, even when arranged by a Canadian recruiter. There have been reports that some contracts have been modified after the fact. Ensure that all terms and conditions of employment are clear before accepting an offer. Ensure that you meet all the necessary requirements.
The Korean government investigates the use of fraudulent documents, degrees and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) certificates. Penalties for using fraudulent documents include arrest, deportation and restrictions on re-entry. Be aware that written contracts may not be binding documents. Verbal agreements often take precedence over written agreements.
Guide for teaching English in Korea
South Korea legally recognizes dual citizenship. If you’re a citizen of Canada, but also a citizen of South Korea, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you’re there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
The South Korean government considers children born from a Korean and a non-Korean parent to be South Korean citizens until age 18, even if they weren’t born in South Korea. Former Koreans over 65 who wish to live their remaining years in South Korea may be granted citizenship.
A male dual citizen whose name appears on the Korean family relation certificate may be subject to compulsory military service, even when entering South Korea on a Canadian passport. Before travelling to South 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 avoid this requirement.
Korean authorities will only recognize you as a Canadian-South Korean citizen if you meet certain criteria. If you think you may have a claim to South Korean citizenship, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Korea or one of its consulates.
- Entry/exit requirements
- Foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada
- General information for travellers with dual citizenship
Although the laws of South Korea do not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex, homosexuality is not socially tolerated. Same sex marriages are not legally recognised in South Korea. LGBTQ2 travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to South Korea.
General safety information and advice for LGBTQ2 travellers abroad
The currency in South Korea is the won (KRW). Some major banks have ATMs that accept international debit or credit cards. The amount allowed per withdrawal may be quite low, making the service charge excessive. Most ATMs that allow withdrawal of money from Canadian bank accounts offer English instructions.
Natural disasters and climate
Rainy and typhoon seasons
The rainy season extends from late June until August. July is usually the wettest month. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides.
Typhoons occur in August and September. These severe storms can cause significant loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure. They can hamper the provision of essential services.
If you decide to travel to South Korea during the rainy or typhoon seasons:
- know that you expose yourself to serious safety risks
- be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
- stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
- carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
- follow the advice and instructions of local authorities
Hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and monsoons
Large-scale emergencies abroad
Air pollution, including yellow dust pollution, is common in South Korea throughout the year and especially in March, April and May.
Air pollution in South Korea - World Air Quality Index
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 112
- medical assistance: 119
- firefighters: 119
An English interpretation service is available.
Seoul - Embassy of Canada
Busan - Consulate of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the embassy of Canada in Seoul and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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