050815 South Korea – Region Status Report

The risk information in this report is retrieved from U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and International SOS. It provides general guidance for UT Dallas travelers. Please note the revision date (mmddyy) of this report, printed on the title of the post,  and go to the direct sources listed above for the most up-to-date information.  The information in this report may change without prior notice.

UT Dallas travelers and trip organizers of a trip to this location are encouraged to use this report, the sources listed above and the Traveler Toolkit in the development stages of: a study abroad program, pre-departure Orientations, mitigation and prevention training, as well as group and personal emergency management plans.

Report Sections

Exit, Entry and Visa Requirements

  • Passport. You must have a valid passport to enter the Republic of Korea with at least one blank passport page.
  • Visa. Contact the Embassy or Consulate of the Republic of Korea closest to you to determine the appropriate type of visa required for your purpose of travel. U.S. citizens can enter the Republic of Korea without a visa for a stay of 90 days or less for tourism or temporary business purposes.
  • Biometric Data. The KIS collects the biometric data (digital photo and fingerprints) of foreign visitors at ports of entry (international airports and seaports).
  • HIV/AIDS Restrictions. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the Republic of Korea.  The Republic of Korea no longer restricts tourists with HIV/AIDS from visiting.
  • Entry requirements For Military Personnel/DOD and Dual Nationality can be found at the U.S. Department of State Republic of Korea webpage, main source of this information.
  • Compulsory military service. Some U.S. and ROK dual nationals are subject to compulsory military service. The Embassy strongly advises all persons with possible ROK citizenship who are of conscription age to consult the Korean Military Manpower Administration website.

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Safety and Security

  • Public demonstrations. There are no guarantees that a demonstration will not turn violent. Avoid demonstrations. Get relevant alert messages through the International SOS Assistance App.
  • North Korea (DPRK). An armistice agreement, monitored by the United Nations, has maintained general peace on the Korean peninsula since 1953. There have been some geographically limited skirmishes taking place primarily around isolated islands off the northwest coast of the ROK.
  • Crime. Compared to the United States, the crime rate in the Republic of Korea is low. The most common crimes (pick-pocketing, purse snatching, and thefts from hotel rooms or homes) occur more frequently in major metropolitan areas, tourist areas, and crowded markets.
    • Use caution in crowded entertainment, nightlife, and shopping districts throughout Korea.
    • Exercise caution when traveling alone at night; consider traveling in groups.
    • Only use legitimate taxis or public transportation.
    • When you travel, stay alert to any unusual activity around your home, hotel, or business, and report any significant incidents to the local police.
    • U.S. Embassy Seoul has received several reports of U.S. citizens who have been victims of sexual assault and rape.
  • Moonson season. During the monsoon season from June – August and the typhoon season from May – November, heavy rains and flooding sometimes occur in the Republic of Korea. See general information about natural disaster preparedness at the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.
  • International SOS Travel Risk Rating. Low

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Health and Medical

  • Medical care. Hospitals in the Republic of Korea are generally well-equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. Most clinics in rural areas do not have an English-speaking doctor. A list of hospitals and medical specialists who speak English is available at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea website.
  • Prescriptions and Medications.
    • Certain prescription drugs, including amphetamines are considered controlled substances.   The Korean Customs Service at Incheon Airport has authority over which medications will be allowed to be carried into the country.  Visitors who plan to hand-carry, ship, mail into the country or import prescription amphetamines or narcotics must apply for permission from the Narcotics Control Division, Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. Instructions for obtaining the Permit Letter can be found on the U.S. Embassy Seoul consular website health information page.  See also Drugs in Health and Medical.
    • Bring with you an adequate supply of any medication you require in its original container, which should be clearly labeled. You should also carry a copy of your prescription from your doctor in case immigration or customs authorities ask for it.
    • Pharmacies are plentiful and first-rate, and most prescribed medications, except psychotropic medications, can be obtained with a prescription. You may wish to consult with your U.S. doctor regarding substitute medicines, or sources of local equivalent medicines in Korea. For more information, please look into their website http://www.mfds.go.kr/eng/index.do.
  • Healthy Travel Packing List. Use the Healthy Travel Packing List for South Korea for a list of health-related items to consider packing for your trip. Talk to your doctor about which items are most important for you.
  • Vaccines required. None per the U.S. Department of State.
  • Vaccines recommended. The CDC indicates that all travelers should be up to date on routine vaccinations while traveling to any destination, and that most travelers should get the Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines.
  • International SOS Medical Risk Rating. Medium.
  • Outbreaks. None currently reported by WHO.
  • Common traveler health concerns: Learn actions you can take to stay healthy and safe on your trip. Vaccines cannot protect you from many diseases in South Korea, so your behaviors are important.
    • Food and Water: Food and water standards in South Korea are similar to those in the United States. Most travelers do not need to take special food or water precautions beyond what they normally do at home. The CDC has a comprehensive webpage on food and water safety, and offers the free Can I Eat This? mobile app.
    • Prevent Bug Bites: Although South Korea is an industrialized country, bug bites here can still spread diseases. Visit the CDC Avoid Bug Bites page.
    • Stay safe around water. Swim only in designated swimming areas. Obey lifeguards and warning flags on beaches. Do not swallow water when swimming. Practice safe boating.
    • Animals. All animals can pose a threat, but be extra careful around dogs, bats, monkeys, sea animals such as jellyfish, and snakes. If you are bitten: Wash any wounds and go to the doctor immediately. Notify your doctor of the bite upon your return to the U.S.
  • CDC Travel Notice.   There are no notices currently in effect for South Korea.

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Local Law

  • Passport Seizures, Exit Bans, and Commercial Disputes. If you become involved in a commercial dispute, the Government of the Republic of Korea may seize your passport and block your departure from the Republic of Korea. While the U.S. Department of State can reissue a passport to U.S. Citizens upon application, it cannot lift the ROK exit ban.
  • Drugs. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Republic of Korea can be severe, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences, heavy fines, and deportation at the end of their sentence.
    • Possession of even small amounts of marijuana or synthetic drugs such as “spice” can result in arrest and stiff penalties.
    • U.S. citizens in the Republic of Korea have been arrested for past use of illegal drugs based on evidence from urine tests and hair sampling.
    • ROK authorities thoroughly screen international mail for illegal items and substances and have arrested U.S. citizens for accepting international mail packages that contain illegal drugs.
  • Traffic laws
    • Driving in the Republic of Korea
      • If you are a short-term visitor and wish to drive in the Republic of Korea, you must have an international driving permit issued in the United States by the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). Otherwise, you must have an ROK driver’s license.
      • For specific information about ROK driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, you can refer to the U.S. Department of State Road Safety page. Also, you may wish to visit the website of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) or call the office at 1-800-868-7567 and contact the national authority responsible for road safety.
    • Accidents
      • In all accidents involving an automobile and a pedestrian or motorcycle, the driver of the automobile, regardless of citizenship, is presumed to be at fault.
      • Police investigations of traffic accidents usually involve long waits at police stations.
      • Police may take the passport of a foreigner involved in a traffic accident if there is any personal injury or a dispute about the cause of the accident.
      • Criminal charges and heavy penalties are common in accidents involving injury, even if negligence is not proven.
      • If you are arrested due to an accident involving serious injury or death, you may be detained until the conclusion of the police investigation and legal process.
      • When driving in the Republic of Korea, you may wish to carry a disposable camera to document any traffic accidents, even minor ones.
    • Alcohol and driving
      • You are considered legally intoxicated in the Republic of Korea when you have a blood-alcohol level of 0.05% or higher.
      • The ROK police actively enforce drunken driving laws and set up DUI checkpoints that are difficult to avoid. All drivers are required to submit to a breathalyzer test. Refusal to take the breath-test can result in cancellation of your license.
      • Driving while intoxicated can result in significant fines and license suspension or even cancellation.
  • Sexual conduct and pornography. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct or using or disseminating child pornography is a crime in the Republic of Korea, and it is also prosecutable in the United States.
  • Counterfeit and pirated goods. Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. It is against Korean law to purchase these goods and against U.S. law to bring them into the United States.
  • Arrest notifications in host country. While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in that country, others may not.  To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify U.S. Embassy Seoul as soon as you are arrested or detained in Korea.

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Customs Regulations

  • Imports and Exports.
    • The Korea Customs Service (KCS) strictly enforces regulations on importing and exporting items such as firearms, ammunition, explosives, narcotics and prescription drugs, non-prescription health supplements, radio equipment, and gold.  See also Drugs in Health and Medical and Local Law.
    • KCS also restricts importation of books, drawings, video or audio recordings that are considered obscene, subversive, or in any way harmful to the public peace.
  • Mailed items. Customs regulations also apply to items mailed to and from the Republic of Korea. As a result, several U.S. citizens have been prosecuted for participation in drug smuggling via international mail.
  • Additional customs details. Further information on other items regulated by customs visit:

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LGBT Rights

  • Laws.
    • Consensual same-sex sexual activity is not criminalized or specifically mentioned in Korea’s Constitution or civil penal code.  Same-sex marriages or relationships are not legally recognized.  Korean citizens can legally change their gender identity.
    • The ROK National Human Rights Commission Act prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation. However ,There are no laws specifying punishment for persons found to have discriminated against LGBT persons and societal discrimination exists against LGBT persons and persons with HIV/AIDS.
  • Environs. Korea remains a conservative country in regards to LGBT issues. However, the LGBT community and awareness of LGBT issues are becoming more visible, particularly in Seoul.  Korea has an increasing number of LGBT-oriented clubs, festivals and non-governmental organizations that advocate for LGBT issues.
  • Information.

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Accessibility

  • Transportation and Accommodations.
    • Korean law mandates access to transportation, communication, and public buildings for persons with disabilities, but individuals with physical disabilities may find less accessibility than in the United States.
    • Metro (subway) cars and buses in Seoul offer priority seating for the disabled. Most metro stations have escalators and elevators. Metro platforms include Braille information only in Korean.  Travelers are encouraged to contact individual bus companies and subway associations for more information.
    • Cross walks typically have audio and visual signals.
    • Older buildings and streets are generally less accessible to individuals with disabilities.
    • U.S. citizens who possess ROK alien registration cards can contact their local ward office for information on assistance for individuals with disabilities that may be available to them. The assistance provided may vary by ward.
  • Also see the Traffic Safety and Road Conditions section.

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Money

  • Currency restrictions. None
  • Additional money details. Please see the U.S. Department of State website on Customs Information.

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Traffic Safety and Road Conditions

This information is for reference only, and may not be accurate for particular locations or circumstances.

  • Road Conditions. The ROK’s roads are well paved, traffic lights are functional.
  • Driving.
    • Most drivers comply with basic traffic laws. However, the Republic of Korea has a significantly higher traffic fatality rate than does the United States.
    • Left-hand turns are generally prohibited except where a green arrow indicates otherwise.
    • You may turn right on a red light after coming to a complete stop.
    • Seat belts are mandatory. Children riding in the front seat of vehicles must wear a seat belt or use an appropriate child car seat.
    • Passengers on motorcycles must wear helmets.
  • Accidents involving motor vehicles.
    • Causes of accidents include excessive speed, frequent lane changes without signaling, running red lights, aggressive bus drivers, and weaving motorcyclists.
    • Motorcyclists sometimes drive on the sidewalks.
    • Drivers of all types of vehicles do not always yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks. It is safer to use pedestrian underpasses and overpasses where available.
  • Public Transportation and Rental Vehicles
  • Review additionally the Road Safety Overseas article.

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Victims of Crime

In an emergency:

  • The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the Republic of Korea is “112” or 02-112 from a cell phone.
  • Dial 119 for ambulances operated by the fire department. They will respond very quickly and take patients to the nearest hospital.

The U.S. embassy or consulate can assist U.S. citizens with:

  • Replace a stolen passport.
  • Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
  • Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
  • Provide you with the on-line help for American victims of crime in South Korea.
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
  • See the information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

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UT Dallas Travelers Comments

We currently do not have comments from UT Dallas travelers for this country.

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