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Full travel advice: Safety
Full travel advice: Health
Full travel advice: Local laws
Full travel advice: Travel
South Korea and North Korea are technically at war. However, military exchanges are rare.
Tensions are still high. However, peace is maintained under a truce agreed at the practical end of the Korean War in 1953.
The Korean Peninsula is divided by a demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating:
North Korea has conducted several underground nuclear tests and ballistic missile tests. These have increased tension in the region.
North Korea may conduct more tests or other 'provocations'. This could lead to responses from its neighbours and their allies.
Tensions in the region could further increase with little warning.
Low-level military clashes sometimes occur.
North Korea's weapons tests and defensive statements increase tensions in the region. Usually, North Korea increases its rhetoric against other countries during annual South Korea–US military exercises.
These routine exercises usually take place in:
The South Korean government has released a free smartphone 'Emergency Ready' app. The app has information on local emergency services, including:
The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.
To protect yourself from threats in the region:
Authorities control access to Yeonpyeong Island and other islands near the Northern Limit Line. This is due to their proximity to a disputed sea boundary.
Public protests and events that draw large groups of people can turn violent.
Large-scale public gatherings and demonstrations are common, particularly in Seoul.
To protect yourself during periods of unrest:
Be prepared to change your travel plans in case of disruptions.
The crime rate in South Korea is low. However, petty crime happens, especially in major cities such as Seoul and Busan.
Travellers have reported sexual assaults, drink spiking and other violent crimes.
To protect yourself from crime:
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
Get familiar with the advice of local authorities on preparing for a natural disaster or other emergency.
If there's a natural disaster:
Register with the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System to receive alerts on major disasters.
The monsoon season is from late June to late August.
Typhoons can happen in August and September. Flooding and mudslides may occur.
If there's a typhoon approaching, identify your local shelter. The direction and strength of typhoons can change with little warning.
Severe weather may also affect:
If there's a typhoon or severe storm:
Check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.
Contact your airline for the latest flight information.
Earthquake activity happens on the Korean Peninsula, though less than in Japan and other countries in the region.
Tsunamis are also a risk.
If you are in a coastal region after a major earthquake, move to higher ground straight away.
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave. Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won't pay for these costs.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many 1000s of dollars up-front for medical care.
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:
Before you travel:
You may need to apply for a 'bring in' permit. Provide the generic name of the medication. This may not be the name that's used in Australia or Korea.
It may take authorities more than 2 weeks to process your application.
Take enough legal medicine for your trip.
South Korea had a number of confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in 2015 and 1 in 2018.
Get medical advice if you have a fever, cough, breathing difficulties or diarrhoea.
Malaria is a risk in:
Japanese encephalitis also occurs.
To protect yourself from disease:
There's an outbreak of Hepatitis-A in South Korea.
Waterborne, foodborne, and other infectious diseases occur, including:
Use normal hygiene precautions, including:
Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is common.
Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.
Outbreaks usually start in March and peak in May, but can continue until October each year.
The disease mostly affects children aged under 10 years. Adult cases, especially in young adults, are not unusual.
When outside major cities:
Get medical advice if you have a fever or diarrhoea.
Yellow dust is carried to the Korean Peninsula by strong winds from Mongolia and China from March to May. High levels of airborne pollution occur during this time.
The dust can:
If you're concerned about the affects of dust, speak to your doctor before leaving Australia.
Get medical advice if you have allergies or breathing difficulties.
The standard of medical facilities in South Korea is usually good, but few staff speak English.
Medical services can be expensive. Hospitals usually require an up-front deposit or confirmation of insurance before they'll treat you.
South Korea is a popular destination for medical tourism.
To protect yourself:
Check whether your travel insurance covers you if things go wrong with your surgery. Most insurers don't.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Don't carry or consume illegal drugs.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs include:
It's illegal to work in South Korea if it's not specified in your visa. This includes paid and unpaid work.
Authorities have fined, detained and deported Australians for breaching their visa conditions.
It's difficult to change your visa type once you're in South Korea.
If you plan to work, arrange a work visa through a South Korean embassy or consulate before you travel.
Disputes over expected working and living conditions for Australians teaching English in South Korea are common.
Some Australians planning to teach English have faced penalties. This happened after they or their employment agent gave false documents to Korean immigration authorities.
If you're employed without the right visa, your options will be limited under Korean law.
If you're considering teaching English in South Korea:
Serious crimes, such as murder, may attract the death penalty.
It's illegal to take photos of and around:
South Korea has strict anti-corruption laws for public officials. Public officials and their spouses can't accept meals, gifts or other benefits above set limits.
'Public officials' include:
Get legal advice to make sure you don't breach these laws.
If you're involved in a commercial or legal dispute, authorities could stop you from leaving.
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you're overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
South Korea doesn't recognise dual nationality.
If you've been arrested or detained and have Korean citizenship, we may only be able to provide limited consular help.
If you were born in South Korea or have Korean citizenship, you will continue to be a Korean citizen unless you both:
Military service is compulsory for male citizens of South Korea, including dual nationals.
The South Korean government may require you to complete military service if you both:
This is the case even if you're travelling on your Australian passport.
The government may not allow you to renounce your Korean nationality or leave the country until you either:
If you're an Australian-South Korean dual national, get advice from an embassy or consulate of the Republic of Korea before you travel.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders.
Make sure you meet all entry and exit conditions. If you don't, the Australian Government can't help you.
For visits up to 90 days, you can get a visa when you arrive. If you're staying longer, you need a visa before you arrive.
Entry and exit conditions change regularly. Contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the Republic of Korea for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
You'll be fingerprinted when you arrive.
All passengers arriving at South Korean airports are screened for infectious diseases, including:
Extra quarantine checks are in place for flights from high-risk areas.
If you have flu-like symptoms, authorities might quarantine you.
Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you're just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport's expiry date before you travel. If you're not sure it'll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport.
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
The local currency is the Korean Won (KRW).
You can change Australian dollars for KRW at local banks and money changers.
Declare all local currency over KRW8 million or $US10,000 or equivalent in foreign currency on arrival. This includes all forms of currency, not just cash.
ATMs are available in cities and larger towns, but may not accept some debit cards.
Credit cards are usually accepted in hotels, restaurants and high-end shops, particularly in cities and larger towns.
Be aware of card skimming. See Safety
To drive, you'll need either:
Get your IDP before your leave Australia.
You need a Korean driver's licence to drive if you'll stay 90 days or more.
Local authorities will normally keep your Australian driver's licence. They'll give it back if you can show a departure ticket.
South Korea has one of the highest rates of traffic deaths for a developed country, especially for pedestrians.
You're 2 times as likely to die in a motor vehicle accident in South Korea as in Australia.
Speeding, running red lights and other risky behaviour is common, especially by buses, taxis and motorcyclists.
Motorcyclists often travel on footpaths and pedestrian crossings.
If you're involved in an accident, whether or not you're at fault, you could face criminal charges. You may need to pay compensation to the injured person.
The blood alcohol limit for drivers is 0.03%. Heavy penalties apply for exceeding the limit. Don't drink drive.
If you're walking:
Before travelling by road, learn local road rules and practices.
Check if your travel insurance policy covers you when riding a motorbike. Most policies won't cover you if you don't follow local laws or wear a helmet.
Always wear a helmet.
There are restrictions on riding motorcycles on highways and other major roads.
Use only authorised taxis, preferably those arranged through your hotel.
Always insist the driver uses the meter.
Rideshare apps are available in South Korea. These aren't widely used due to the large number of available taxis.
International taxi services are available and may have English-speaking drivers.
Public transportation in and between major urban areas is good.
Most major transportation systems have signs in English.
South Korea has a large high-speed rail network (KTX).
Stations are usually located in major urban areas. They usually have signs in English.
They're often linked to local taxi or public transport networks.
Ferry services operate between most large coastal cities and other domestic and international ports.
Busan is a regular stopover location for cruises.
Many airlines and travel providers don't allow you to pay for flights online within South Korea with a foreign credit card.
DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check South Korea's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
Call 119 or go to the hospital.
Call 112 or go to the nearest police station.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Contact your provider with any complaints about tourist services or products.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
For consular help, contact the Australian Embassy in Seoul.
19th Floor, Kyobo Building
Seoul 03154, Republic of Korea
Phone: (+82 2) 2003 0100
Fax: (+82 2) 2003 0196
Facebook: Australia in the Republic of Korea
Check the Embassy website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
Be the first to know official government advice when travelling.