Spotlight City: Seoul, South Korea
Seoul is the capital and largest city of South Korea, with a metropolitan population of about 25.6 million. As one of East Asia’s busiest and most international cities, Seoul represents a major international center for commerce, culture and technology. Seoul’s rich history dates back to 18BCE, and today it stands as a leading and rising global city. It is an economic powerhouse, with the world’s fourth largest metropolitan economy after Tokyo, NYC and Los Angeles. Seoul is very safe, as even petty crime is fairly uncommon. The quality of local healthcare is excellent.
South Korea is a very safe city by international standards. Violent crime is extremely rare, and even petty crime like pickpocketing is uncommon. In general, as long as you take a reasonable degree of precautions, you shouldn’t encounter any issues regarding security and personal safety in Seoul. Petty crime is most likely to occur in crowded areas, such as bus stations or tourist attractions.
As the city’s main entertainment and shopping districts, Itaewon, Sinchon, Myeongdong, and Hongdae incur larger crowds and substance abuse and present a higher risk for crime.
South Korea as a whole maintains a high readiness to respond to military threats. The country holds quarterly civil defense drills, which typically result in some sort of superficial response from North Korea. Foreigners should be aware of these occurrences in advance through the media as they are not cause of alarm.
Political demonstrations are extremely common in Seoul. Demonstrations and rallies are typically peaceful, although they have degraded to violence in the past. Avoid all political gatherings and crowds.
Best Practices for Personal Security in Seoul
Assume normal precautions in Seoul. Be aware of your surroundings and always be conscious of your belongings in public. Keep valuables and bags within view. Keep wallets in your front pocket and purses tucked underneath your arm. Don’t leave your belongings unattended in public.
Whenever possible, stick to larger, well-lit roads and avoid side-alleys or isolated streets, especially after dark. At night, it is best to remain in areas with lots of people. Avoid voicing political opinions as the atmosphere remains very sensitive.
What to Do in an Emergency
In the event of an emergency, dial 119 to access emergency fire, medical and police services. Contact the representation of your country in Seoul as they may be able to provide further assistance. Be aware that local police staff often do not speak English.
Seoul is a uniquely charming destination in Asia. The culture of the city is a juxtaposition of both traditional imprints and progressive attitudes. The best of Korea is on display here in the capital, yet the city’s global nature simultaneously provides it with a very worldly vibe. Whether it’s to sample delicious Korean cuisine, admire traditional architecture or discover the latest technologies, Seoul is a great destination for every traveler.