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South Korea - Exercise normal security precautions
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for South Korea. Exercise normal security precautions.
Safety and security
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 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. 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 and passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.
The Korean National Police Agency operates a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Central Interpretation Centre where foreigners can report crimes.
Women travelling alone may be subject to certain forms of harassment and verbal abuse.
See Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information for Canadian women.
Political, labour and student demonstrations and marches occur and have the potential to become confrontational or violent. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local media.
The rate of fatal road accidents is very high. Check carefully before crossing the road as vehicles may not stop at pedestrian crossings. Use underground or above-ground pedestrian crossings where available. Speeding, running red lights and other risky behaviour is 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.
Taxis may not be equipped with seatbelts. Drivers may speak some English, but have your destination written in Korean.
A high-speed train (KTX) links Seoul and major southern cities such as Busan, Gwangju and Mokpo.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
Civil emergency exercises
Nationwide civil emergency exercises are held 8 times a year on the 15th of every month, except January, February, July and December. Sirens are sounded, transport stopped and some people may be asked to take shelter in metro stations or basements. While visitor participation is not necessary, familiarise yourself with the procedures and check local announcements for further exercises.
General safety information
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 119 emergency services, locate the closest medical center or shelter and view videos related to First Aid.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from the South Korean authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. 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.
To visit South Korea, Canadians must present a passport that is valid beyond the date of expected departure from the country. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
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)
You cannot change your visa status once you are already 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. Consult HiKorea for more information about visas for South Korea.
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.
Travellers entering South Korea are subject to a body temperature check upon their arrival 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) in Middle East - August 1, 2017 00:00 EDT
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 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 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.
* 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 for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present a South Korean passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). 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.
Children born from international marriages are considered South Korean citizens until the age of 18. Former Koreans over 65 years of age who wish to live their remaining life in Korea may be granted citizenship.
Male dual citizens whose names appear 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 gain exemption from this requirement.
You must meet certain criteria to be recognized as a Canadian-South Korean citizen by South Korean authorities.
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.
See Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit Canadians abroad for more information.
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.
Natural disasters and 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, caused by yellow dust, peak in March, April and May.
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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