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South Korea travel guide - Travel S helper

South Korea

travel guide

South Korea is an East Asian sovereign state that occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula.

South Koreans enjoy a unique urban lifestyle; half of them live in high-rises centered in the Seoul Capital Area, which has 25 million people and is the world’s sixth leading global metropolis, with the fourth biggest economy and the seventh most sustainable city.

Korean pottery goes back to 8000 BC, with three kingdoms thriving in the first century BC. Goguryeo, also known as Kory, was a strong empire and one of East Asia’s major powers, controlling Northeast China, portions of Russia and Inner Mongolia, and more than two-thirds of the Korean Peninsula under Gwanggaeto the Great. Since their unification into Later Silla and Balhae in the 7th century, Korea has experienced almost a millennium of relative peace under long-lasting dynasties, with inventions such as Hangul, a unique alphabet established by Sejong the Great in 1446 that allows anybody to quickly learn to read and write. Its rich and dynamic culture has left 17 UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity, the world’s third biggest, as well as 12 World Heritage Sites. Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1910 owing to its strategic and central position, and after its capitulation in 1945, it was split into North and South Korea. The Korean War (1950–53) was precipitated by a North Korean invasion. Peace has largely been maintained since then, with the two agreeing to work peacefully toward reunification and the South cementing peace as a regional power with the world’s tenth biggest defense expenditure.

South Korea’s tiger economy rose at an annual average of 10% for more than 30 years during the Miracle on the Han River, quickly converting it into the world’s 9th biggest high-income economy by 1995. Its success may be attributed to a long history of openness and emphasis on innovation. Today, it is the world’s fifth biggest exporter and seventh largest importer, with the greatest budget surplus in the G20 and the highest credit rating of any East Asian nation. It has free trade agreements with 75% of the world’s economies and is the only G20 country that trades freely with China, the US, and the EU all at the same time. It became a multi-party democracy with universal suffrage in 1987, and it is now Asia’s most advanced democracy, with high government transparency, universal healthcare, and religious freedom. High civil freedoms resulted in the development of a worldwide prominent pop culture, such as K-pop and K-drama, a phenomenon known as the Korean Wave, which is renowned for its unique stylish and trendy style. South Korea, the home of the UN Green Climate Fund and the GGGI, is a pioneer in low-carbon, green development, and is dedicated to assisting poor nations as a key DAC and Paris Club donor. It is the OECD’s most hospitable nation in terms of visa-free entrance for foreigners, and it ranks well in terms of peaceful tolerance and minority inclusion.

According to the Human Development Index, South Korea is the most developed nation in East Asia. It boasts the world’s ninth highest median family income, the highest in Asia, and its singles make more than the whole G7 group. It has the world’s third greatest health adjusted life expectancy and fourth most efficient healthcare system, and scores well in personal safety, education, job stability, ease of doing business, and healthcare quality. It leads the OECD in scientific and engineering graduates and is rated third in the Youth Wellbeing Index. South Korea was voted the world’s most inventive nation in the Bloomberg Innovation Index, ranking first in corporate R&D intensity and patents filed per GDP. It is the home of Samsung, the world’s top smartphone and TV manufacturer, LG, and Hyundai-Kia. It boasts the quickest Internet speed and the greatest smartphone ownership rate in the world, and it ranks #1 in ICT Development, e-Government, and 4G LTE coverage. With 97 percent of smartphones already having Internet connection, it became the world’s first nation to completely convert to high-speed Internet and launch the world’s first mobile TV broadcast in 2005.

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South Korea - Info Card

Population

51,744,876

Currency

Korean Republic won (₩) (KRW)

Time zone

UTC+9 (Korea Standard Time)

Area

100,363 km2 (38,750 sq mi)

Calling code

+82

Official language

Korean

South Korea | Introduction

Korea, often known as the “Land of the Morning Calm,” has historically acted as a cultural bridge between China and Japan. South Korea has just emerged from the shadows of its tumultuous history to firmly establish itself as one of the world’s main economic powers. Since the turn of the century, South Korean culture has grown in popularity across East Asia, resulting in the country being a popular tourist destination.

Tourism in South Korea

South Korea had 11.1 million international visitors in 2012, up from 8.5 million in 2010, making it the world’s 20th most visited country. South Korea had more than 12 million visitors in 2013, with 6 million of them coming from China alone, because to Hallyu. The South Korean government has set a goal of luring 20 million international visitors per year by 2017 due to increasing tourism possibilities, particularly from outside Asia. According to a research by the Hyundai Research Institute, Hallyu’s beneficial impacts on the nation’s entertainment sector are not confined to the cultural industry. The Korean Wave, according to the Hyundai Research Institute, has a direct effect on attracting direct foreign investment back into the nation via product demand and the tourist sector. China was the most welcoming Asian country, spending 1.4 billion in South Korea, the majority of which went into the service sector, a sevenfold increase from 2001. According to economist Han Sang-Wan, a 1% rise in Korean cultural content exports to a nation boosts consumer goods exports by 0.083 percent, while a 1% increase in Korean pop content exports to a country boosts tourism by 0.019 percent.

Demographics Of South Korea

The National Statistical Office projected South Korea’s population to be approximately 50.8 million in April 2016, with the working-age population and total fertility rate continuing to decrease. The nation is known for its high population density, which in 2015 was estimated to be 505 people per square kilometer, more than ten times the world average. Because of significant migration from the countryside during the country’s fast economic growth in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the majority of South Koreans now reside in cities. Seoul, the country’s capital, is also the country’s biggest metropolis and most important industrial hub. Seoul has a population of ten million people according to the 2005 census. The Seoul National Capital Region is the world’s second biggest metropolitan area, with a population of 24.5 million people (almost half of South Korea’s total population). Busan (3.5 million), Incheon (2.5 million), Daegu (2.5 million), Daejeon (1.4 million), Gwangju (1.4 million), and Ulsan (1.4 million) are the other significant cities (1.1 million).

International migration has also influenced the demographic. Approximately four million individuals from North Korea crossed the border into South Korea after World War II and the partition of the Korean Peninsula. Emigration, particularly to the United States and Canada, reversed this net entrance trend during the following 40 years. South Korea’s overall population was 21.5 million in 1955, and by 2010, it had more than quadrupled to 50 million.

With more than 99 percent of the population being of Korean ethnicity, South Korea is one of the world’s most ethnically homogenous societies.

The number of foreign nationals has been steadily increasing. In 2009, there were 1,106,884 foreign residents in South Korea, accounting for 2.7 percent of the population; however, more than half of them are ethnic Koreans with dual citizenship. For example, foreign nationals from China (PRC) account for 56.5 percent of the total population, yet about 70% of Chinese residents in Korea are Joseonjok (in Korean), PRC citizens of Korean ancestry. According to the Korea National Statistical Office, there are 28,500 US military troops serving in South Korea, the majority of whom are on a one-year unaccompanied tour (but about 10% serve extended deployments accompanied by family). In addition, about 43,000 English instructors from English-speaking nations are stationed in Korea on a temporary basis. Since 2010, approximately 30,000 foreign-born residents have obtained South Korean citizenship, making it one of the fastest-growing countries in terms of foreign-born population.

In 2009, South Korea’s birthrate was the lowest in the world. If current trends continue, the country’s population would drop by 13% to 42.3 million by 2050. The yearly birthrate in South Korea is about 9 per 1000 inhabitants. However, in 2010, the birthrate rose by 5.7 percent, and Korea no longer boasts the lowest birthrate in the world. According to a Chosun Ilbo study from 2011, South Korea’s overall fertility rate (1.23 children born per woman) is greater than Taiwan’s (1.15) and Japan’s (1.15). (1.21). In 2008, the average life expectancy was 79.10 years (34th in the world), but by 2015, it had risen to approximately 81 years. In the OECD countries, South Korea has the greatest drop in working-age population. The National Statistical Office projected in 2015 that the country’s population will peak in 2030.

Religion In South Korea

In 2005, slightly under half of South Koreans said they did not have a religious preference. The majority of the remainder are Buddhists or Christians. According to the 2007 census, 29.2% of the population was Christian (18.3% Protestants, 10.9 percent Roman Catholics), while 22.8 percent was Buddhist. Islam and other new religious groups such as Jeungsanism, Cheondoism, and Wonbuddhism are examples of other faiths. Korean shamanism was the first religion to be practiced. The constitution now guarantees religious freedom, and there is no official religion. However, there is a contradiction with the long-standing necessity of obligatory military duty, which leads to the incarceration of conscientious objectors, leading to the detention of many Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Korea for rejecting on the same reasons. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has concluded that South Korea’s government employs arbitrary imprisonment of conscientious objectors and that the country should take measures to address the problem.

Christianity is the most popular religion in South Korea, with more than half of the country’s religious followers. In today’s South Korea, there are about 13.7 million Christians; approximately 63 percent of Korean Christians attend Protestant churches, while 37 percent attend Roman Catholic churches. Since the 1990s, the number of Protestant Christians has dropped somewhat, whereas the number of Roman Catholics has risen dramatically since the 1980s. The Presbyterian Church of South Korea is the largest Christian denomination in the country. Around nine million individuals are members of one of the 100 Presbyterian churches; the HapDong Presbyterian Church, TongHap Presbyterian Church, and Koshin Presbyterian Church are among the largest denominations. See Presbyterianism in South Korea for additional information. After the United States, South Korea is the second-largest missionary-sending country.

In the year 372, Buddhism was introduced to Korea. According to the 2005 national census, there are approximately 10.7 million Buddhists in South Korea. About 90% of Korean Buddhists now are members of the Jogye Order. Buddhist items make up the majority of South Korea’s National Treasures. Since the Three Kingdoms Period, when Goguryeo accepted Buddhism as the official religion in 372, it has been the state religion in several Korean kingdoms, including Baekje (528). From the North South States Period (not to be confused with the current split of Korea) until Goryeo, Buddhism was the official religion of Unified Silla before being suppressed by the Joseon dynasty in favor of Neo-Confucianism.

Although there are less than 30,000 Muslims in South Korea, the nation has 100,000 migrant workers from Islamic countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan.

Korean shamanism, often known as Muism (religion of the mu [shamans]) or Sinism (religion of the gods), includes a wide range of indigenous Korean religious beliefs and rituals. Muism is the most often used word in modern South Korea, and a shaman is known as a mudang or Tangol. This religion has regained popularity among Koreans during the early 2000s.

Language In South Korea

South Koreans speak Korean, therefore learning a few words in the language would be extremely useful. Unfortunately, the syntax of the language differs significantly from that of any Western language, and pronunciation is difficult for an English speaker to master (though not tonal). Various dialects are spoken depending on where you travel in the nation, but standard Korean, which is based on the Seoul dialect, is understood and spoken by nearly everyone. The Gyeongsang dialect, spoken in Busan and Daegu, is renowned for being harsh and violent in comparison to standard Korean, while the Jeju dialect, spoken on Jeju island, is notorious for being almost incomprehensible to standard Korean speakers.

Despite 60 years of separation, the Korean language remains essentially the same in North and South Korea. The major distinctions are the high number of English nouns that South Korea has taken from English, as opposed to the North’s use of indigenous or Russian-derived equivalents. As a consequence of the ideological differences between the two nations, descriptions of political and social systems are likewise drastically different.

The Korean writing system seems to be very basic. Although it seems to be as complicated as Chinese or Japanese at first sight, hangul (hangeul) is a unique and simple phonetic writing system in which sounds are piled into blocks that indicate syllables. It was created by a committee and seems to be all right angles and little circles at first sight, yet it is surprisingly consistent, rational, and easy to learn.

Because many signs and menus in Korea are printed in hangul exclusively, learning to understand it before you come can make navigating much simpler. Even simple pattern-matching techniques are useful: for example, if you know that a circle at the bottom of a block is read -ng, you can tell Pyongyang () from Seoul Furthermore, many popular Korean terms – coffee, juice, computer — are frequently the same as English ones, but are written in hangul. Surviving in Korea is surprisingly simple if you can read hangul.

Many Korean words may also be written using considerably more complicated classical Chinese characters, called in Korean as hanja, which are still sometimes incorporated into writing but are becoming more rare. Nowadays, hanja are mostly used to clarify meanings that are unclear when written in hangul. The hanja is typically placed in parenthesis next to the hangul in such cases. Hanja characters are also used to denote janggi or Korean chess pieces, newspaper headlines, and personal names on official documents.

Because Korean terms in Roman characters may have a lot of variation in spelling, don’t be startled if you encounter signs for Gwangalli and Kwanganri next to each other – they’re both the same location. The government standardized on the Revised Romanization method in 2000, which is also used in Wikivoyage, although earlier McCune-Reischauer spellings and just plain odd spellings are still common. Words starting with g, d, b, and j, for example, may be written k, t, p, and ch instead, while the vowels eo and eu may be spelled o and u. The vowels I and u are occasionally written as ee and oo, respectively, while the letters l, r, and n are often exchanged. F is replaced by p in foreign terms imported into Korean, so don’t be shocked if you see a cup of keopi (coffee) or a round of golpeu (golf).

Almost every Korean under the age of 40 has had English lessons as part of their education, and the country’s English level is improving as a result of government policies and investments. However, most Koreans have only a rudimentary understanding of English phrases in real speech owing to a lack of practice (as well as a fear of mispronunciation). If you’re in a hurry and need someone to speak English, high school or university students are usually your best option. Reading and writing, on the other hand, are considerably simpler, and many individuals can read and comprehend a significant amount of English even without any real-life conversation experience. Many workers at foreign tourist-oriented airlines, hotels, and shops are likely to know at least basic English. As a result, visitors in large cities may get by with just English, but it goes without saying that learning basic Korean words will make your trip more comfortable and pleasant.

When visiting South Korea, it is typical for western visitors to be accosted by youngsters who want to practice their English. They’ll often snap a photo of you as evidence that they really spoke to you.

Older people may still be able to communicate in Japanese. Because Busan is just a short distance from Fukuoka, Japan, it has a higher concentration of Japanese speakers per capita, and the dialect is more similar to Japanese, just as the Japanese dialect in Fukuoka has a strong Korean impact. However, many Koreans (particularly the elderly) still hold the Japanese responsible for the horrors perpetrated during the occupation, so unless you have no other option, avoid addressing a Korean in Japanese. Many merchants in touristic areas understand Japanese, Mandarin, or Cantonese, thanks to the “Korean wave” (hallyu) of Korean pop music and soap operas that has swept East Asia.

Internet & Communications in South Korea

By phone

In South Korea, international calling prefixes differ per operator, and there is no standard prefix. Consult your operator for the appropriate prefixes. The country code for calls to South Korea is 82.

Because South Korea only utilizes the CDMA standard and does not have a GSM network, most 2G (GSM) phones from other countries will not operate. Even GSM phones with four bands are worthless. If you have a 3G phone with a 3G SIM card, you should be able to roam on KT or SK Telecom’s UMTS/W-CDMA 2100 networks; verify with your home operator to make sure. In Korea, 4G LTE has recently been available; check with your carrier for more information.

KT, SK Telecom, and LG U+ are the three service providers in the nation. In South Korea, they provide prepaid mobile phone services (pre-paid service, PPS). Incoming calls are completely free. Prepaid phones and services may be purchased at any retail store on any street (for Koreans). At Seoul, used phones may be found in a few shops.

With the exception of certain isolated mountainous regions, mobile phone service is usually good. The best coverage is provided by SK Telecom, followed by olleh (KT) and LG U+.

You should be able to acquire a prepaid SIM card from one of the olleh expat outlets if you wish to buy one. You must, however, have been in Korea for at least three days and present your passport. The cost of a prepaid SIM card is 5,500, with a minimum charge of 10,000 required on the spot. You’ll also need a phone that’s compatible. All current iPhones (3GS and later) should be compatible. 

Mobile phone rental is available from all carriers, and certain phones additionally allow GSM SIM roaming. They have shops at Incheon, Seoul (Gimpo), and Busan’s international airports (Gimhae). Service facilities for KT SHOW and SK Telecom can also be found at Jeju Airport. Charges start at 2,000 won per day if you book ahead of time on the visitkorea website for a discount and assured availability.

Rentals for a 4G WiBro device go from 5,000 to 10,000 a day for unlimited access, but service is not always available outside of big cities and in enclosed areas.

Internet

South Korea is the world’s most connected nation, with PC bang (PC, pron. BAH-ng) Internet cafés strewn throughout the country. The majority of clients are there to play video games, although you are allowed to sit and write e-mails as well. Typical hourly rates range from 1,000 to 2,000, but more “luxurious” establishments may charge more. Snacks and beverages may be purchased in most PC bangs. Smoke is prohibited in PC bangs, however many shops, while expressly saying contrary, will grant implicit permission to smoking if requested (for legal reasons). The majority of PC bangs are cash-only.

In addition, there is a lot of free wifi accessible in South Korea. Simply look for an unencrypted signal, but be aware that utilizing unsecured wifi hotspots anywhere in the globe poses a security risk, so be cautious about what you use it for.

The majority of South Korean homes have internet connections with wifi, and the majority of them are encrypted by default.

ollehWiFi is a paid WiFi hotspot that is one of the most widely used. The service is fast (30Mbps+) and inexpensive, costing 1100 per hour or 3300 per day. You may pay for the service using a credit card on your smartphone, or at most convenience shops with cash or a credit card. In the Seoul Metropolitan Area, ollehWiFi is accessible in most convenience stores, coffee shops, some marts, restaurants, intercity buses, and all subways and metro stations.

Wifi is also available at Starbucks Coffee, but you’ll need a South Korean residency card to access it. Many additional coffee shops provide free internet that does not need registration. ollehWiFi should be accessible at every Starbucks location.

South Korean websites, particularly those requiring online payment, often need Windows and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Many services are becoming accessible mainly for mobile phones, as they are everywhere in Asia, with Kakao Talk being the most popular.

By mail

Korea Post is a quick, dependable, and cost-effective service. A postcard costs 660 to send anywhere in the globe, while letters and parcels cost 480. If you want conventional stamps, you must specifically request them; otherwise, you will get a printed label. On request, elegant “tourist” cancellations (Gwangwang Tongsin Ilbuin) for your stamps are available for no extra fee at selected post offices. For transactions above 1,000, Korea Post accepts Visa and MasterCard.

Most post offices are only open from 9:00 a.m. to 18:00 p.m. on weekdays. Larger post offices are also open on Saturday mornings, while central offices in major cities are open late and on Sundays.

Economy Of South Korea

South Korea’s mixed economy is ranked 11th nominally and 13th in terms of purchasing power parity GDP, putting it among the G-20 big countries. It is the most industrialized OECD member nation and is a developed country with a high-income economy. South Korean companies such as LG Electronics and Samsung are well-known throughout the world.

With its enormous investment in education, the country has progressed from widespread illiteracy to a significant global technical powerhouse. From the early 1960s until the late 1990s, South Korea’s economy was one of the world’s fastest-growing, and it is currently one of the fastest-growing developed nations in the 2000s, with Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, the other three Asian Tigers. The Miracle on the Han River is how South Koreans refer to this development. South Korea’s economy is highly reliant on foreign commerce; in 2014, it was the world’s fifth biggest exporter and seventh largest importer.

In November 2010, the fifth G20 summit was held in Seoul, South Korea’s capital. The two-day summit was projected to improve South Korea’s economy by 31 trillion won in economic impacts, or 4% of the country’s 2010 GDP, and generate over 160,000 jobs. It may also help the country’s sovereign credit rating improve.

Despite South Korea’s strong development potential and apparent structural stability, the country’s credit rating is harmed in the stock market due to North Korea’s belligerence during severe military crises, which has a negative impact on South Korean financial markets. The International Monetary Fund lauds South Korea’s economic resilience in the face of different economic crises, noting low state debt and large fiscal reserves that can be rapidly deployed to deal with financial crises. Despite being badly damaged by the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, the South Korean economy recovered quickly and quadrupled its GDP.

Furthermore, during the global financial crisis, South Korea was one of the few developed nations to escape a recession. Its economic growth rate in 2010 was 6.2 percent (the fastest in eight years following substantial growth of 7.2 percent in 2002), a considerable improvement from 2.3 percent in 2008 and 0.2 percent in 2009, when the global financial crisis struck. South Korea’s unemployment rate remained low in 2009, at 3.6 percent.

Entry Requirements For South Korea

Visa & Passport for South Korea

At ports of entry, the Korean Immigration Service gathers biometric data (digital photos and fingerprints) from foreign tourists (international airports and seaports). If any of these processes are rejected, entry will be denied. This condition does not apply to children under the age of 17 or foreign government and international organization leaders and their immediate family members.

  • Canadian citizens are granted visa-free access for up to 180 days.
  • Citizens of the European Union (except Cyprus, Portugal, and French territory of New Caledonia), Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Serbia, Singapore, Suriname, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United States/American Samoa (Except Guam), Uruguay, and Venezuela can visit visa free for up to 90 days.
  • Citizens from Lesotho, Portugal, and Russia can visit visa free for up to 60 days.
  • Citizens of Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Cyprus, Fiji, Guam, Guyana, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Kuwait, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Monaco, Montenegro, F.S. Micronesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, Oman, Palau, Paraguay, Qatar, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tonga, Tunisia, Tuvalu, the United Arab Emirates, and Vatican City can stay visa free for up to 30 says.

Note that Jeju Island is an independent region with less stringent entrance requirements than the rest of South Korea, allowing anybody to enter except residents of 11 countries. Citizens of Afghanistan, Cuba, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Macedonia, Nigeria, Palestine, Sudan, and Syria are eligible for a 30-day visa-free travel to the Autonomous Province of Jeju. After that, if you leave Jeju for the mainland, you will be required to obtain a visa for the rest of South Korea.

South Korea is extremely excellent at keeping track of who comes and goes electronically, so don’t overstay your visa. Violations will very certainly result in you being barred from re-entering, and you may be prosecuted.

Military personnel going to South Korea under the SOFA do not need a passport as long as they have a copy of their travel orders and a military ID. Their dependents, on the other hand, must have a passport and an A-3 visa to enter.

Most foreigners staying longer than 90 days must register with the authorities and receive an Alien Registration Card within 90 days of their arrival. For further information, contact your local government.

How To Travel To South Korea

Get In - By plane

Although South Korea has numerous international airports, only a handful offer regular flights. Over the past decade, South Korea has been engulfed in an airport construction frenzy. Many major cities have specialized airports that handle a small number of aircraft each week.

The country’s main airport, Incheon International Airport, is located approximately an hour west of Seoul and is serviced by a number of international airlines. There are many flight choices available from Asia, Europe, and North America, as well as flights to South America and Africa. This airport is often regarded as the best-run and-designed in the world. Direct intercity buses run from right outside the international arrival hall to a variety of destinations throughout South Korea. The airport has a metro line that runs directly to both Seoul Gimpo airport and Seoul Station (express AREX 43 minutes and all-stop subway 56 minutes). (The Seoul station has an airline check-in facility.) In addition, the newly launched KTX high-speed rail service links the whole nation in about three hours.

Cambodia, China, Guam, Japan, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam all have international connections via Busan’s Gimhae International Airport. Gimhae also offers a few daily flights straight from Seoul Incheon, which is much more convenient than changing planes in Seoul Gimpo after a lengthy overseas trip. A light rail line connects Gimhae and West Busan from the airport.

Many South Korean cities have flights to Jeju, as well as international flights to major Taiwanese, Japanese, and Chinese cities. The (Seoul) Gimpo-Jeju line is the world’s busiest flight corridor, and the island is also well serviced by Korean airports.

Domestic flights to most South Korean cities are available from Seoul Gimpo Airport, while international “city shuttle” services from Tokyo-Haneda, Beijing, Shanghai-Hongqiao, and Taipei-Songshan are also available. It is more centrally situated than Incheon in relation to Seoul. You may take the rail or the limousine bus from Incheon Airport.

Yangyang Airport is a small, quiet airport in the country’s far north east. Korea Express Air flies between Busan Gimhae International Airport, Seoul Gimpo Airport, and Gwangju Airport on domestic flights. Charter flights are also available to Chinese cities. The Seoraksan National Park and portions of Northeast Gangwon-do are also accessible through this airport. The main airlines to and from South Korea are Korean Air and Asiana. Budget airlines like as Air Busan and Jeju Air, which operate both local and international routes, are on the rise.

The main full-service airlines to and from South Korea that fly throughout the globe are Korean Air (대한항공) and Asiana (아시아나 항공). Air Busan, Jin Air, Jeju Air, Eastar Jet, and T’Way Airlines are low-cost airlines that provide both domestic and international flights to Jeju.

Get In - By train

Train journeys between Japan and Korea may be completed through a boat ride in the middle thanks to an agreement between the two nations’ rail systems. Train passengers traveling from or continuing to Japan may buy special through tickets that provide savings of up to 30% on KTX services and 9-30% on Busan-Fukuoka ferries and Japanese trains.

It is not possible to go to North Korea via rail. On the North Korean side of the border, there is a railway track linking the Korean Rail network with North Korea, as well as an operational Korean Rail station (although with no regular trains). However, since there is no traffic, it will most likely stay more of a political statement than a viable mode of transportation for some years.

Get In - By boat

Please keep in mind that the services mentioned here may change often, and English-language websites may not be up to date. Before you travel, double-check.

The Busan Port International Passenger Terminal is the country’s biggest seaport, with ferries mostly to and from Japan. JR’s Beetle hydrofoil service connects Busan and Fukuoka in about three hours, with up to five connections per day. It also provides service to Tsushima, which is close by. All other connections are slower nighttime ferries, such as the Shimonoseki services provided by Pukwan Ferry Company. Panstar Line Co., Ltd. operates a Busan-Osaka ferry.

International Ferry Terminal 1 (Yeonan Budu,) in Incheon offers services to many Chinese cities, including Weihai, Dandong, Qingdao, and Tianjin. Jinchon is the biggest operator, although Incheon Port provides a complete listing on their website. Ferries run from Pyeongtaek to the Chinese ports of Rizhao, Rongcheng, and Lianyungang, all in Shandong province.

Dong Chun Ferry offers weekly departures from Sokcho (Gangwon-do) to Vladivostok for USD270, while DBS Cruise Ferry Co offers weekly departures from Donghae (Gangwon-do) to Vladivostok for USD205.

Get In - By land

Overland entry into South Korea is not feasible because to the political and military situation with North Korea. The border between North and South Korea is often regarded as the world’s most highly guarded border, and illegal incursions near the truce town of Panmunjeom have typically resulted in shooting.

Surprisingly, a small number of South Korean businesspeople used to cross the border every day by bus to operate in the joint industrial park in the North Korean city of Kaesong until recently. The industrial park, however, has been shuttered since 2016, as a result of inter-Korean tensions.

How To Travel Around South Korea

South Korea is very small, so if you fly, you can go somewhere quickly, and even if you don’t, you can get anywhere quickly. Most cities, including Seoul’s metropolitan area, have subways. Subways in larger cities are either operational or in the planning stages. Travel by bus or cab is convenient, but bus services are more cost-effective.

Get Around - By plane

Because South Korea is a tiny nation with a quick and efficient rail system (see the KTX fast train below), flying is not required unless you’re traveling to the island of Jeju.

However, several airlines fly between the major cities at a price similar to the KTX railway. The majority of flights are with Korean Air or Asiana; however, cheap carriers like as T-way, Air Busan, Jin Air, and Jeju Air provide a variety of new choices (which despite the name also serves the busy Seoul Gimpo to Busan route). On domestic flights, there is no difference in treatment between full-service and low-cost airlines; in fact, low-cost carriers provide free soft drinks and 15kg of hold baggage.

Get Around - By train

South Korea’s national railway operator, Korail, links the country’s main cities. Trains are currently competitive with buses and aircraft in terms of speed and affordability, with excellent safety standards and a fair degree of comfort, thanks to a significant amount of money poured into the network in recent years.

The high-speed Korea Train eXpress (KTX) services between Seoul and Busan, Seoul and Yeosu, Seoul and Mokpo, and Seoul and Masan (with more routes launching all the time) utilize a mix of French TGV technology and Korean technology to run at speeds of more than 300 kilometers per hour. The quickest non-stop trains take little over two hours to travel between Busan and Seoul. On board, there are drink vending machines and a snack cart with moderately priced beer, soda, cookies, candies, sausages, hard-boiled eggs, and kimbap, as well as an attendant who comes by with a snack cart (rice rolls).

Non-KTX trains are classified as Saemaeul (, “New Village”), Mugunghwa (, “Rose of Sharon”), and Tonggeun (, approximately equivalent to express, semi-express, and local services, respectively. All Saemaeul/Mugunghwa trains have a maximum speed of 150 kilometers per hour. Trains in Saemaeul are somewhat more expensive than buses, whereas Mugunghwa are approximately 30% less expensive. Saemaeul trains, on the other hand, are very comfortable, with seats that are similar to those seen in business class on aircraft. Though there are less Saemaeul and Mugunghwa services now that the KTX has arrived, they are still worth trying. Tonggeun, previously Tonggil, is the cheapest of the three, but non-aircon long-distance services have been phased out, leaving only short regional commuter trains. The dining car on most long-distance trains has a small cafe/bar, PCs with internet connection (W500 for 15 minutes), and a few trains even feature private compartments with coin-operated karaoke machines!

Laptop seats on Saemaeul and certain Mugunghwa trains are provided with power outlets.

On any Korean railway or station, smoking is prohibited (including open platforms).

Busan, Daejeon, Daegu, Gwangju, and Incheon all have subway services, while Seoul has a large commuter rail network that seamlessly integrates with the huge metro system.

Tickets are considerably cheaper than in Japan, but more costly than in other Asian nations – however the financial impact may be mitigated by using local trains instead of the KTX. Purchasing tickets is straightforward; self-service kiosks that take cash and credit cards are available in a variety of languages and are simple to use. The majority of station employees are able to communicate in basic English. Most stations are clean, contemporary, and well-signposted in Korean and English, and Korea’s rail system is extremely user-friendly when compared to China or Japan.

For weekend excursions, pre-booking any rail tickets (whether KTX or mugunghwa) a day in advance is advised, since all trains may be sold out for hours on end. On Sundays in particular, all but local trains have started to sell out on a regular basis. When leaving major hubs like Seoul or Busan, failing to book tickets in advance may limit your choices to “unallocated seats” on the slowest local trains (sitting on the floor in the unairconditioned area between carriages, or standing in the bathroom for most of the journey). You are, however, free to sit in any seat that seems to be available until someone with a ticket for that seat arrives. If you’re confident with your Korean, you may ask to reserve seats in available portions and travel the rest of the way standing up.)

KR Pass

The KR Pass is a special rail pass established in 2005 that allows non-resident foreigners staying in Korea for less than 6 months unrestricted travel on any Korail train (including KTX) for a fixed amount of time and includes free seat reservation. The pass does not let you to travel in first class or sleep in a sleeping car, but you may upgrade for half the price. A minimum of five days before to departure, the pass must be bought (preferably before arrival in Korea). It is not inexpensive since it requires a significant amount of travel (e.g., a round journey from Seoul to Busan) to pay off, and there are severe restrictions on use during Korean holidays and peak travel seasons, such as Lunar New Year in February and Chuseok in September.

Joint KR/JR Passes exist between Korea and Japan, however given how big of a discount the JR Pass provides and how little the KR Pass accomplishes in contrast, such a combination merely deducts value from the JR Pass in all reality.

Get Around - By bus

Buses (beoseu) continue to be the most common form of national transportation, linking all cities and villages. They’re frequent, on time, and quick, sometimes dangerously so, so tighten the seat belts you’ll frequently discover.

Long-distance buses are divided into express buses (gosok beoseu) and inter-city buses (si-oe beoseu), which frequently utilize different terminals. Furthermore, local inner-city bus networks (si-nae beoseu) often link directly neighboring cities. The difference between express and intercity buses boils down to whether or not the country’s toll expressways (gosok) are used. In practice, express buses are somewhat quicker on lengthy trips, but intercity buses go to more locations. For further comfort, seek for Udeung buses (), which have just three seats across instead of the customary four, and cost approximately 50% more. On highly competitive lines like Seoul-Andong, however, some intercity buses utilize Udeung buses without charging additional fees. The airport limousine bus, a distinct network of fast buses that transport passengers straight to and from Incheon International Airport, is the fourth tier of bus. It’s worth noting that airport limos usually travel back and forth from several pickup locations to the intercity or express bus terminal.

There are no bathrooms on Korean buses, and break stops are not required for journeys of less than 2 hours, so think twice about that bottle of tea at the terminal.

Bus terminal employees and drivers, unlike railway personnel, are less likely to know or comprehend English.

Get Around - By boat

The peninsula is surrounded by ferry boats that transport passengers to Korea’s many islands. Incheon, Mokpo, Pohang, and Busan are the major ports. Jeju-do and Ulleungdo are the most popular locations. Busan’s daily domestic route to Jeju Island has restarted. (at the time of writing, April 2013) Near Incheon, there are a number of unknown and beautiful islands that seem to be abandoned.

Get Around - By car

To drive around South Korea, you’ll need an International Driving Permit (IDP). In general, South Korean roads are in excellent shape, with directional signs in both Korean and English. For approximately a week, vehicle rental prices start at $54,400 per day for the smallest car. In South Korea, traffic flows to the right.

Driving is not advised if you are going in the major cities, particularly Seoul or Busan, since the roads are frequently congested and parking is costly and difficult to come by. In such situations, many drivers become erratic, weaving in and out of traffic. When traffic lights are about to turn red, drivers often attempt to rush past them, and many vehicles (even fully loaded public transport buses) will usually go through the lights after they have turned red, whether or not people are in the crosswalk.

It’s worth noting that Koreans see traffic laws as recommendations only, and they don’t expect to be fined for parking illegally or running a red light. This implies that if you want to drive, you’ll have to be aggressive and drive through a junction, forcing other drivers to yield.

While traveling Seoul or Busan, a GPS is strongly advised. Lanes terminate or change into bus lanes with little to no notice, and the nearest spot to do a U-turn may not always be apparent. Staying in the center lane is a good rule of thumb since vehicles will often park illegally in the right lane, while the left lane will abruptly stop. Google Maps does not provide driving instructions in South Korea due to strict national security regulations that require navigation processing to be done on local servers. Waze and Kimgisa are two free alternatives (now KakaoNavi).

Get Around - By taxi

Taxis are a handy, though rather expensive, mode of transportation in cities, and are often the only feasible method to go there. Even in large cities, getting an English-speaking taxi driver is very rare, therefore you’ll need to have the name of your location written in Korean to show your taxi driver. In case you get lost, have your hotel’s business card to show the taxi driver.

While legally unlawful, short-distance fares may be refused service by taxi drivers, especially lower-flagfall white cabs on busy Friday or Saturday evenings. To combat this, write your destination (hotel name or just gu and dong, in Korean, of course) in strong black ink on a big A4 piece of paper and hold it up to the traffic. Passing taxi drivers who are responding to long-distance calls or who have room in their cab in addition to an existing fare in that direction may often pick you up en route.

When hailing a taxi, be sure you wave your hand over with all of your fingers extended downwards and beckoning, rather than upwards as in the Western manner (this style is reserved for animals).

Destinations in South Korea

Regions in South Korea

South Korea is split into nine administrative provinces, as shown below. Although the biggest cities are distinct entities from these provinces, we put them under the most relevant province for visitors.

  • Gyeonggi
    Surrounding Seoul and near to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, which is covered with urban sprawl.
  • Gangwon
    Seoraksan National Park, beaches, and ski resorts make Gangwon a natural paradise.
  • North Chungcheong
    Mountains and national parks abound in this landlocked province.
  • South Chungcheong
    South Chungcheong is located in the country’s center western region. Rice paddies cover a flat area. It is renowned for its hot springs and serves as a crossroads for major railway lines and highways.
  • North Gyeongsang
    North Gyeongsang is the province with the most historical and cultural landmarks, including Andong, Gyeongju, and the Ulleungdo islands.
  • South Gyeongsang
    South Gyeongsang is renowned for its beautiful coastal towns and beaches, where the majority of Koreans spend their summer vacations.
  • North Jeolla
    North Jeolla is known for its excellent Korean cuisine.
  • South Jeolla
    There are many lovely tiny islands and landscapes, delicious cuisine (particularly seafood near the coast), and excellent fishing opportunities.
  • Jeju
    A volcano built South Korea’s honeymoon island. Beautiful landscape with wildflowers and opportunities for horseback riding.

Cities in South Korea

  • Seoul (서울) — Seoul is South Korea’s vibrant 600-year-old capital, a mix of the ancient and contemporary.
  • Busan (부산, 釜山) — Busan is Korea’s second biggest city and a significant port city.
  • Chuncheon (춘천, 春川) — Chuncheon is the capital of Gangwon province. It is surrounded by lakes and mountains and is renowned for its native cuisine, such as dakgalbi and makguksu.
  • Daegu (대구, 大邱) — Daegu is a cosmopolitan metropolis with a rich history and cultural heritage.
  • Daejeon (대전, 大田) — Daejeon is a big and vibrant city in the province of Chungnam.
  • Gwangju (광주, 光州) — Gwangju is the administrative and economic center of the region, as well as the province’s biggest city.
  • Gyeongju (경주, 慶州) — Gyeongju was the Silla Kingdom’s ancient capital.
  • Incheon (인천, 仁川) — Incheon is the country’s second busiest port and home to the country’s biggest international airport.
  • Jeonju (전주, 全州) — formerly the Joseon Dynasty’s spiritual capital, now a major arts hub with museums, old Buddhist temples, and historical sites

Other destinations in South Korea

  • Seoraksan National Park (설악산국립공원) — The country’s most famous national park and mountain range, Seoraksan National Park, is spread out across four cities and counties.
  • Andong (안동시) — home of a thriving folk hamlet and historically rich in Confucian customs.
  • Ansan (안산시) — Ansan is a city on the coast of the Yellow Sea in Gyeonggi Province.
  • Guinsa (구인사) — Guinsa is the Buddhist Cheondae sect’s magnificent mountain headquarters.
  • Panmunjeom (판문점) — Panmunjeom is the world’s only tourist destination where the Cold War is still a reality.
  • Boseong (보성군) — undulating hills covered with green tea leaves where you may walk a woodland route and stop at a neighboring spa to sip homegrown tea and soak in a saltwater bath.
  • Yeosu (여수시) — Yeosu is one of the most beautiful port cities in the nation, particularly at night. You may take a trip to any of the islands in Hallyeo Ocean Park or watch the sunset from the magnificent Dolsan Bridge or charming cafés surrounding marinas, which are known for their seafood and beaches.
  • Jindo (진도) — Every year, people rush to the region to see the separating of the sea and participate in the accompanying celebrations. Jindo — usually identified with the local dog, the Jindo, people swarm to the area to observe the parting of the sea and participate in the following festivities.
  • Ulleungdo (울릉도) — Ulleungdo is a beautiful, isolated island off the east coast of the Korean peninsula.

Accommodation & Hotels in South Korea

In South Korea, there is abundance of lodging in all price ranges. It’s worth noting that costs in Seoul are usually twice as high as elsewhere in the nation.

Some higher-end hotels have rooms with both Western and Korean styles. The ondol , a complex Korean-invented floor-heating system in which hot steam (or, these days, water or electricity) warms stone slabs under a layer of clay and oiled paper, is the primary characteristic of Korean rooms. There are no beds; mattresses are simply placed on the floor. Other than that, there’s usually just a few low tables (and you’re supposed to sit on the floor) and maybe a TV.

Motels

Some of the cheapest lodging in South Korea is found in motels or yeogwan, although they are not the same as motels in the West and are more akin to Japan’s “love hotels.” Motels in South Korea are often extremely inexpensive motels aimed at young couples looking to spend ‘time’ together away from their elders, replete with plastic mattresses that sometimes vibrate, strategically positioned mirrors on the ceiling, and a VCR with a selection of suitable movies. For the budget traveler, though, they may just be a cheap place to stay, with prices as low as 25,000 per night.

The simplest method to locate a hotel is to check for the emblem and opulent architecture, which may be found near train stations or highway exits. They’re more difficult to locate online since they seldom, if ever, appear on English-language booking sites, although Hotel365 (Korean only) offers extensive listings for the whole nation.

Some hotels make it simple to choose a room by posting room numbers, illuminated photos, and rates on the wall. The lesser fee is for a two- to four-hour “rest,” while the larger price is for an overnight stay. Proceed to check-in by pressing the button for the one you prefer, which will become black. You’ll almost always be asked to pay up front, typically to a pair of hands behind a frosted glass window. Although English is seldom used, you just need to know the phrase sukbak (which means “staying”). You may or may not be given a key, but even if you aren’t, the staff can generally allow you in and out if you ask – just don’t forget to save your receipt!

Hanok

Houses constructed in traditional Korean architectural styles are known as hanoks. Many of these homes going back to the Joseon period are being restored and opened to paying visitors in recent years, and serve as Korea’s counterpart of Japan’s ryokan and minshuku. With costs to match, amenities vary from extremely basic backpacker-style to over-the-top grandeur. Higher-end restaurants usually provide a traditional Korean supper as well as a choice of either a Western or a traditional Korean-style breakfast. Guests typically sleep on mattresses on the floor, much like their Japanese counterparts. Hanok lodgings may be found in ancient towns and cities like as Hahoe and Gyeongju, as well as old settlements like Bukchon in Seoul.

Hostels/Guesthouses

Hostels and guesthouses are available in South Korea, but they are not as prevalent as they are in other areas of Asia or the globe. A few hundred will be found in major cities like Seoul, whereas a few will be found in smaller towns. Even within one hostel, prices may vary greatly. In Seoul, mixed dorms average ₩15,000-25,000 per person; private rooms with a shared toilet and shower average ₩20,000-30,000 per person; and private ensuite rooms average ₩25,000-40,000 per person. Many hostels will offer a common area with free television, games, computers, and internet access; others will have a fully equipped public kitchen and other facilities.

Minbak

A minbak may be found in rural regions surrounding national parks. The majority of them are just a room or two in someone’s house; some are more upscale and resemble yeogwans (motels) or hotels. They usually have ondol rooms with a TV and that’s about it. The majority of rooms do not have their own bathroom, but some of the more luxurious ones do. 

Jjimjilbang

For the budget traveler, jjimjilbang public bath houses may provide a good night’s sleep as well as a soothing bath and sauna. The cost of admission is between 5,000 and 12,000, and it includes a robe or t-shirts/shorts (for mixed facilities and the sleeping hall) to wear. Showers, public baths, eateries, computer/video game rooms, a room with DVD movies, and a heated hall to sleep in, usually with beds and sometimes comfortable head rests, are all provided. These establishments are mostly frequented by families or couples on weekends, as well as Korean working men from the countryside on weekdays (night), although visitors are welcome. Two lockers are usually given, one for your shoes (at the entry) and one for your clothing and other belongings (near the bath entrance). Although you may typically leave a big backpack at reception, it may not fit. A Jjimjilbang is no more uncomfortable than any other public bath in the West, so go ahead. Some Korean spas, such as the “Spa Land Centum City” in Busan, do not allow overnight stays, while others, such as the “Dragon Hill Spa” in Seoul, have time limits, but these are the outliers. You must take everything with you when you go and pay to return.

Temples

South Korea has a plethora of ‘Temple Stays’ across the nation. The fundamental concept is that you spend one or more days with the monks, living with them and participating in their rituals.

The biggest Buddhist sect in Korea, Jogye , offers a popular Temple Stay program in which tourists may spend 24 hours living at a Buddhist temple. At other temples, speaking Korean is helpful but not required; nevertheless, you will be asked to labor at the temple and wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. to participate in morning prayer. A “contribution” of 50,000-80,000 is anticipated in return for three meals and a basic bed for the night.

Things To See in South Korea

South Korea has long been known among Asian visitors as a top shopping, gastronomic, and sight-seeing destination. It is a relatively new vacation destination in the Western world, but it is quickly gaining appeal. And with good reason: South Korea combines old Asian characteristics with all the contemporary conveniences you’d expect from a sophisticated, high-tech country. Despite its small size, it has a diverse variety of great attractions and a well-developed infrastructure that makes traveling about simple.

  • Seoul – The majority of trips begin in the nation’s never-sleeping capital. This historic site has seen ages and conflicts pass by, yet it seems to be stronger than ever. It is known as the “Miracle on the Han River” and is one of the world’s biggest urban economies. It’s the country’s industrial heartland, the birthplace of K-pop, a mecca for South Korean nightlife and exquisite cuisine, and home to a plethora of museums. The National Museum of Korea has a fantastic history and art collection, and a visit there is a great way to spend a day. The city has been rediscovering its ancient assets and renovating municipal parks in recent years, adding to its allure. Most of the palaces, including Gyeongbokgung , Changdeokgung, and Gwanghwamun, are located in downtown Seoul, where the ancient Joseon Dynasty capital used to be. It is encircled by a Fortress Wall, with the renowned Namdaemun, one of the eight gates, being the most famous. Apart from the renowned 63 Building, the Banpo bridge transforms into magnificent colors at night, and Yeouido Island offers wonderful playgrounds for rollerblading and bicycling. Other attractions include the Secret Garden, Seodaemun, and the Seoul Tower, which is home to the world-famous Teddy Bear Museum. Follow the people to Cheonggyecheon, one of the urban redevelopment projects and a popular public leisure area, or have an afternoon tea in a traditional teahouse in Insadong to get away from the crowds.
  • Busan is the country’s second largest metropolis and major port. Koreans come to this city’s excellent beaches, seafood restaurants, and festivals, dubbed the country’s summer capital. In the summer, Haeundae beach in Busan is the most renowned in the nation, with an ambiance similar to that of southern France or California.
  • Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) – The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was created on July 27, 1953, as a cease-fire agreement with a 2-kilometer border between North and South Korea. Panmunjeom, also known as the Joint Security Area (JSA), is the DMZ’s “truce town,” where visitors may see North and South Korea without fear of violence. You may also enter one of the buildings along the border, known as the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), which implies you can pass into the north while accessing such structures. A line where North and South Korean troops confront one other coldly marks the border. The trip includes a visit to the neighboring bridge of no return, which was formerly the primary restricted crossing point between the two nations. In 1978, North Korea’s Third Tunnel of Aggression (1.7 km long, 2 m high, and 73 meters below earth) was found. Seoul is just 44 kilometers or 1 hour distant from this tunnel.
  • Bukhansan is one of the most visited national parks in the world, located just north of Seoul. Mount Bukhansan, at 836 meters high, is a prominent landmark visible from many areas of the city, and the park is home to the lovely Bukhansanseong Fortress. The popular walk up there is definitely worth it, as you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the city. Suncheon Bay Ecological Park and Seoraksan National Park are other excellent choices. The country contains a total of 20 national parks, the majority of which are hilly, although several also concentrate on marine and coastal environment. The beautiful green tea fields of Boseong provide a different, yet equally pleasant and relaxing escape.
  • Jeju Island is a small island off the coast of Korea If you don’t mind the crowds, this volcanic and semi-tropical island provides breathtaking scenery and many natural attractions, as well as a peaceful and pleasant (particularly in the winter) ambiance and a diverse range of activities. The Lava Tubes, Seongsan Ilchubong, Loveland, and South Korea’s tallest peak, Hallasan, are all worth seeing (1,950 m).
  • Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites are World Heritage Sites that house a major portion of the world’s dolmen. It has brought forth a significant array of archaeological discoveries in addition to the magnificent megalithic stones.
  • Gyeongju formerly served as the country’s capital and now has a number of royal burial grounds, World Heritage cultural monuments, and peaceful resorts.
  • Folk villages – Hahoe Folk Village in Andong, Yangdong, the living museum-like Korean Folk Village in Yongin, and Hanok Village in Jeonju are among the greatest places to view some Korean folklore.
  • Festivals – Korea is a festival-loving nation. There’s always something going on nearby, no matter where you go. It’s typically a fantastic and colorful experience to watch or perhaps participate in the busy festivities. Boryeong Mud Festival () is a popular choice, when visitors immerse themselves in mud and participate in activities like as mud wrestling and body painting. The surrounding beach transforms into a post-apocalyptic party scene.

Things To Do in South Korea

  • Hiking Korea is a great hiking destination with many trekking possibilities due to the country’s mountainous terrain. Try Jirisan, Seoraksan, or the extinct volcano Hallasan on Jeju Island, which is South Korea’s highest mountain. They have spectacular vistas, 1-3 day trails, English signposts/maps, shelters (most of which are heated), and are simple to arrange. The leaves change gorgeous colors in the fall, therefore autumn and spring are the ideal times to visit.
  • Jjimjilbang Saunas are very popular among Koreans. If you can get over everyone being nude, this is a great way to unwind after a long day of touring – a good sauna, bath house, and somewhere to sleep for many (night) hours. There will be one in even tiny communities. This is particularly useful if you forgot to make a reservation for a hotel, everything is booked, or you need an inexpensive somewhere to stay overnight. Families are very busy on weekends.
  • Hot springs Koreans, like their Japanese and Taiwanese neighbors, are big fans of hot springs (, oncheon), and there are resorts all throughout the nation. Bathers are generally required to be naked by etiquette. Saunas are also available at several locations.
  • Snowboarding/Skiing In the winter, Gangwon province provides excellent skiing possibilities, which is especially attractive when it snows.
  • Eat Maybe you’ve had Korean BBQ in your own nation. The truth of Korean cuisine is much more varied and delicious. Every day, try something new and wonderful! (Vegetarian, meat, or seafood)
  • Winter surfing The greatest surf occurs in the winter due to local tidal conditions! You may do this in two places: Pohang and Busan.
  • Karaoke/Singing Rooms Noraebang is the same as Japanese Karaoke parlors, which are common and hard to miss in major cities.
  • Martial Arts Learn martial arts including Taekwondo, Hapkido, and Taekkyeon, which is a dance-like martial art. You may also attend to a competition or a performance – for example, traditional martial arts may be shown during cultural festivals.
  • Temple Stay Spend a few days in a Korean monastery meditating and learning about Buddhism.
  • In the Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces, water amusement parks abound, including Caribbean Bay in Yongin, Ocean World in Hongcheon, which has a more Ancient Egyptian theme, and Ocean 700 in Pyeongchang. In the summer, both tourists and residents flock to the area.

Food & Drinks in South Korea

Food in South Korea

Korean food is gaining popularity outside of Korea, particularly in East Asia and the United States. With plenty of hot and fermented foods, it may be an acquired taste, but if you get accustomed to it, it’s addicting, and Korean cuisine is certainly in a league of its own, combining fiery chillies and huge quantities of garlic with delicate delicacies like raw fish. Although Korean cuisine is low in fat, as shown by the fact that few South Koreans are overweight, individuals on sodium-restricted diets should be aware that Korean cuisine may be salty.

A typical Korean dinner consists of rice, soup, and most likely a fish or meat dish, all of which are accompanied by a wide variety of banchan (side dishes). A simple dinner may just include three kinds of banchan, while a regal feast may have twenty. Bean sprouts (kongnamul), spinach (shigeumchi), tiny dried fish, and other side dishes are common, in addition to kimchi.

The ubiquitous kimchi (gimchi), prepared from fermented cabbage and chile, is served with almost every meal and varies in heat from mild to hot. In addition to cabbage, kimchi may be prepared using white radish (ggakdugi), cucumbers (oi-sobagi), chives (buchu gimchi), or pretty much any pickled vegetable. Kimchi is used to flavor a wide variety of meals, and it is often eaten as a side dish. When traveling overseas, it is not unusual to see Korean visitors with a cache of neatly packed kimchi.

Doenjang, a fermented soybean paste similar to Japanese miso, and gochujang, a hot chilli paste, are two additional condiments present in nearly every meal.

While many of these meals are available across Korea, each city has its own unique specialties, like as Chuncheon’s dakgalbi.

Because Koreans believe that Westerners don’t enjoy spicy cuisine, you may have to spend some time persuading them differently if you truly want to eat anything spicy. Also, although Korean food has the bland-diet Japanese and northern Chinese salivating, if you’re used to Thai or Mexican cuisine, you may be wondering what all the buzz is about.

Restaurants serving foreign cuisine are also popular, but they typically have a Korean touch. Fried Chicken has become popular, and many people think it is superior than the American version. Pizzas are also widely available, but you may question where the ideas for the toppings originated from. Koreans like Vietnamese and Mexican cuisine as well. There are many different types of Japanese restaurants to choose from. Surprisingly, Chinese cuisine is difficult to come by, and Koreans typically associate Chinese dining with Jajangmyeon (thick soy-based noodles with distant Chinese roots) and sweet and sour pork.

Etiquette

Koreans use chopsticks with a twist: unlike the rest of Asia, they prefer metal chopsticks. Restaurants usually offer stainless steel chopsticks, which are notoriously tough to use for chopstick beginners! These thin, slick chopsticks aren’t as simple to use as wooden or plastic chopsticks, but you’ll get by with a little fumbling.

When dining as a group, communal dishes will be put in the middle, and everyone will be able to chopstick anything they like, but individual amounts of rice and soup will still be served. Unless you’re dining on royal cuisine, the majority of meals are served family style.

In many traditional families, children were taught that speaking at meals was rude. If there is total quiet while eating, don’t be startled. Mealtimes are used by people, especially males, to rapidly consume food and move on to other activities. This is due to the fact that most young Korean males must serve in the military and have short mealtimes.

Some tips about etiquette:

Chopsticks should never be left upright in a meal, particularly rice. This is only done when the dead is being remembered. A spoon standing upright in a dish of rice is not a good indication, either.

Do not begin to eat until the oldest at the table has done so.

Lifting plates or bowls off the table while eating is considered impolite among Koreans.

You may consume your rice and soup with your spoon. Koreans often eat their rice with a spoon and their other meals with chopsticks.

Don’t be concerned about whether you’re doing anything correctly or not. Everything will be alright if you utilize your common sense of civility and decent manners.

Chopsticks are not required for all foods, and most Tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) restaurants provide knives and forks instead. A westerner may be able to use western silverware in many Korean eateries.

Restaurants

It would be impossible to go hungry in South Korea. There is always someplace to eat no matter where you go. There are a few different types of Korean restaurants:

  • Bunsik (분식) are quick-serve snack restaurants that provide inexpensive, delicious cuisine.
  • Kogijip (고기집), is a place where you can get grilled meat meals and toppings.
  • Hoejip (회집), “raw fish house”, serves fresh fish slices similar to Japanese sashimi, known in Korean as hwe, as well as complementing side dishes. These eateries may usually be found along the beaches of any body of water.
  • Hansik (한식). The full course Korean dinner, also known as hanjeongsik, began with feasts held at the royal palace. The meal begins with a chilly appetizer and juk (porridge). Seasoned meat and vegetable dishes may be steamed, boiled, fried, or grilled as the main course. Traditional beverages such as sikhye or sujeonggwa are offered after the meal.
  • Department Stores – Food sections at department stores are divided into two categories: a food hall in the basement and full-service restaurants on the upper floors. There are take-out and eat-in sections in the food hall areas. The full-service restaurants are more costly, but they usually feature pictorial menus and a pleasant atmosphere.

Coffee Shops

Coffee is extremely popular in Korea, and coffee shops can be found almost everywhere (even in small countryside villages). There are both Korean chain and indie coffee shops to choose from. Starbucks and other foreign-owned coffee shops are much less prevalent in Korea than their Korean equivalents. Apart from coffee, these cafés typically offer sandwiches, toasties, paninis, and quesadillas, as well as sweet treats like bingsu (Korean shaved ice), Korean style toast, pastries, and a variety of cakes, some of which are vegan.

Barbecues

“Korean barbecue” is arguably the most popular Korean meal among Westerners, and it is divided in Korea into two types: bulgogi (marinated meat pieces) and galbi (unmarinated ribs). In each, a charcoal brazier is put in the center of the table, and customers grill their preferred meats over it, seasoning it with garlic. The cooked meat from each of these is served with shredded green onion salad (pa-muchim), raw (or cooked) garlic, shredded pickled radish (muchae), and chili-soya paste (ssamjang) on a lettuce or perilla leaf, and then eaten. Everything is optional, so be creative.

The price of a barbecue dinner is mainly determined by the kind of meat used. Meat is offered in units at most Korean restaurants that serve it (usually 100 grams). Pork is by far the most popular cut of meat. It’s considerably less expensive than beef, and customers say it tastes better. Rather than filet mignon, ribs, unsalted pork bacon (samgyeopsal), and chicken stir-fried with vegetables and spicy sauce (dakgalbi) are popular types of meat. Although unmarinated meats are of better quality, it is preferable to stay with marinated meats in less expensive places.

Rice dishes

Bibimbap literally translates as “mixed rice,” which is an accurate description. It consists of a bowl of rice with a variety of toppings (vegetables, meat slivers, and an egg), which you mix up with your spoon before adding your desired amount of gochujang (chili sauce) and devouring. Dolsot bibimbap, served in a boiling hot stone bowl (watch your fingers!) that crisps the rice on the bottom and sides, is very delicious.

Gimbap, often known as “Korean sushi,” is another healthy and delicious alternative. Rice, sesame seeds, a Korean spinach type, pickled radish, and an optional meat, such as minced beef or tuna, are all neatly wrapped in dried seaweed, topped with sesame oil, and cut into gimbap. Depending on one’s hunger, a single roll may serve as a snack or a dinner, and they carry nicely. What separates Korean gimbap from Japanese sushi is how the rice is prepared: The rice in Korean gimbap is typically flavored with salt and sesame oil, while the rice in Japanese gimbap is flavored with sugar and vinegar.

Tteokbokki, which resembles a mound of boiling intestines at first glance but is really rice cakes (tteok,) in a sweet chili sauce that is considerably milder than it appears, is more of a snack than a meal.

Soups and stews

Soups are referred to as guk or tang, whereas stews are referred to as jjigae. The distinction is blurry, and certain meals may be referred to as both (for example, the fish soup-stew dongtae jjigae/dongtaetang), but in general, jjigae is hotter and tang/guk is milder. Both are served with a large amount of white rice on the side.

Doenjang jjigae, prepared with doenjang (Korean miso), veggies, and seafood, and gimchi jjigae, made with — you guessed it — kimchi, are two popular jjigae variations. Sundubu jjigae is made with soft tofu and typically includes minced pork, but there is also a seafood variant called haemul sundubu jjigae that utilizes shrimp, squid, and other seafood instead of meat.

Budae jjigae is a unique kind of Korean fusion cuisine from the city of Uijeongbu, which once housed a US military post. Locals who experimented with American canned foods like as Spam, sausages, and pork and beans attempted incorporating them into jjigae, and although the recipes vary, the majority of them call for a lot of spicy kimchi. Most restaurants will bring you a large pan of stew and set it in the center of the table on a gas burner. Many people prefer to add ramyeon noodle to the stew, although this is optional.

Seolleongtang, a milky white broth made from ox bones and flesh, gamjatang, a potato stew with pig spine and chilies, and doganitang, made from cow knees, are all popular tang soups. Samgyetang (pron. saam-gae-taang), a whole spring chicken filled with ginseng and rice, is one soup worth mentioning. It’s typically a bit pricey due to the ginseng, but the flavor is very moderate. In a kind of “eat the heat to fight the heat” custom, it’s often served in a heated broth just before the hottest portion of summer.

Guk are mostly side dishes, such as seaweed soup miyeokguk and dumpling soup manduguk, although others, such as the frightening-looking pig spine and ox blood soup haejangguk, a favorite hangover cure, are substantial enough to constitute a meal.

Noodles

Koreans like noodle dishes, and the names kuksu and myeon cover a wide range of options. Fast-food noodle restaurants often sell them for as low as 3000. Korea’s wheat-based noodles are a mainstay.

Naengmyeon is a Korean specialty from the north, consisting of thin, chewy buckwheat noodles served in ice cold beef broth, and is therefore a popular summer meal – despite the fact that it is usually winter cuisine! They’re also a traditional way to finish a meaty barbecue dinner. The broth (yuksu) is the most important part of the meal, and well-known restaurants’ formulas are typically carefully kept secrets. Pyongyang naengmyeon and Hamhung naengmyeon are the two most common styles.

Japchae () is a fried yam noodle dish with vegetables (usually cabbage, carrots, and onions) and sometimes meat or odeng (fishcake). Mandu() dumplings are also extremely popular, and may be eaten steamed, fried, or boiled in soup to create a complete meal.

Ramyeon is a Korean ramen dish that is often served with kimchi. When compared to Japanese ramyeon, Korean ramyeon is renowned for its overall spiciness. Take, for example, shin ramyeon.

Koreans consider jajangmyeon to be Chinese cuisine, since it is linked to northern Chinese zhajiangmian, a wheat noodle dish served with a black sauce generally including minced pork, onions, cucumber, and garlic, and commonly served at (what are loosely characterized as) Chinese restaurants. Its sauce includes some caramel, which makes the meal sweet overall. With ‘Chinese’ sweet and sour pork and chicken, this is a popular combo.

Finally, u-dong is a kind of thick wheat noodle that is similar to Japanese udon.

Seafood

Because Korea is a peninsula, it has a wide variety of seafood (haemul) that may be consumed both cooked and raw. Restaurants where you select your own fish — or bring it from the fish market next door — are popular, but depending on what you buy, they may be very costly.

Hoe (pronounced “hweh”) is raw fish prepared in the Korean manner (similar to sashimi), with a spicy cho-gochujang (Korean hot pepper sauce with vinegar) sauce. Chobap is a Korean dish that combines raw fish with vinegared rice, akin to sushi. When ordering fish as hoe/chobap, the bony portions that aren’t delivered raw are often turned into a delicious but spicy soup known as meuntang.

Haemultang, a fiery red hotpot stew with crab, shrimp, fish, squid, veggies, and noodles, is another prepared speciality.

Whale flesh is sold in a few restaurants in the cities and during festivals in smaller coastal towns, but it is difficult to come by and, unlike Japan, is not considered part of the national tradition. Whaling has a long history in Pohang, and the city’s seafood market still sells whale. Following an international moratorium imposed by the International Whaling Commission in 1986, South Korea banned whaling, with the exception of whales killed ‘accidentally’ during routine fishing. The sale of whale meat imported from Japan in certain restaurants, which is legally prohibited, has been a recent controversy (although usually ignored). Whale restaurants are simple to spot since they have images of whales on their exteriors. If you choose to eat whale, be aware that the species in issue may be endangered, and that your choice should be based on your own moral compass.

Dietary restrictions

In Korea, vegetarians will have a difficult time. Meat is defined as the flesh of land animals in much of East Asia, thus seafood is not considered meat. Spam may be mistaken for anything other than meat, so be clear about what you don’t consume. If you request “no gogi,” they will most likely cook the meat as normal and remove the large pieces. Saying you are chaesikjuwija (a person who exclusively eats veggies) is a nice expression. Be ready for inquiries from the server if you do this. It’s generally advisable to have a list of things you do and don’t eat in Korean on a card or piece of paper to show restaurant waiters and chefs; see the Korean phrasebook section on eating: Korean phrases for eating for more information.

Fish stock, particularly myeol-chi (anchovy), is used in most stews instead of beef stock. This will be your bane, so inquire if you’re ordering any stews/hotpots or casseroles outside of renowned vegetarian eateries.

Seafood, such as salted small shrimp, will very likely be used in spicy (red) kimchi. You won’t be able to see it since it will vanish into the brine. Mulgimchi (, “water kimchi”) is a vegan version of kimchi that is simply salted in a clear, white broth with a variety of veggies. Kimchi will go you a long way in Korea if you are prepared to consume something flavored with brine shrimp.

Vegans and vegetarians are completely safe in Korean monastery cuisine restaurants, which utilize no dairy, egg, or animal products, save maybe honey, as per Buddhist custom. This kind of food has recently become popular, although it may be very costly.

In Korea, there are a growing number of vegetarian restaurants, the most of which are in bigger or medium-sized establishments. Some of them are operated by Hindus or Seventh-Day Adventists.

When you’re out and about, the following vegetarian and vegan dishes are very simple to come by and safe to eat:

  • Sidedishes – These are numerous meals that are frequently offered with vegetables as an addition to the main meal in most Korean style restaurants. Please keep in mind that kimchi isn’t generally considered vegetarian.
  • Bibimbap (비빔밥) is a wonderful vegan alternative made out of mixed rice and veggies that can be found almost everywhere! Still, be aware that it is sometimes served with ground beef and often with a fried egg.
  • Somandu (소만두) are vegetable and glass noodle-filled Korean dumplings (stay clear of almost any other kind of dumpling)
  • Japchae (잡채) – Cold noodles in a vegetable soup, sometimes with ice, are known as japchae . In the summer, this dish is fantastic.
  • Gimbap (김밥) are Korean sushi rolls made with rice and pickled veggies that are widely available. There are many different kinds, but search for ones that don’t include spam or fishcake in the center.

Drinks in South Korea

Drinkers rejoice: alcohol is inexpensive, and Koreans are among the world’s most heavy drinkers. Because of the rigorous social standards at work, the drinking establishment is sometimes the only area where inhibitions may be let go and personal connections can be expressed. Significant commercial agreements are made at the bar, not in the boardroom. Over beverages in karaoke rooms, late-night raw fish eateries, and restaurant-bars, promotions, grants, and other business advances are obtained. Many Korean males are what would be called heavy drinkers in the West, and as alcoholism becomes more widely acknowledged as a disease, public efforts to reduce alcohol use have started. Be prepared to see businessmen in suits sleeping it off on the pavements, and be cautious not to tread in the pools of vomit that are prevalent in the mornings. In South Korea, the legal drinking age is 19.

Nightlife

Koreans have developed somewhat different methods to enjoy their night out when compared to Western drinking practices. Sure, you can readily locate Western-style pubs, but visiting a Korean-style bar may be a unique experience. Hofs (originally German, but hopeu in Korean) are simple beer establishments that offer beer and side foods. In most drinking places in Korea, customers are expected to order a side dish to accompany their beverages. Due to increased rivalry, several hotels have begun to add different entertainment devices.

Korean booking clubs are similar to nightclubs. The “booking” portion of the name is what makes them unique. It’s essentially a method for waiters to introduce you to new individuals of the opposite sex (who usually bring women to visit tables of men, but increasingly vice-versa). Booking clubs are pricier than regular pubs and hofs, but they can be a lot of fun. These are distinct from American-style clubs in that you are required to purchase alcohol and side dishes in addition to the cover fee (which can be very expensive in the 200,000-500,000 range and above). But, other from it, the dance and atmosphere are same.

At a booking club, one of the usual things to do is to “dress-up” your table or booth by purchasing costly liquors and fruit platters, which communicates your’status’ to the other customers (especially your gender of interest). Scotch whiskey is notoriously overpriced in Korea, so don’t be shocked if that seemingly harmless bottle of Johnnie Walker costs a fortune. Purchasing a bottle of liquor or a “liquor package” is, on the other hand, a better overall value than purchasing beverages separately.

On the other hand, many residents go out to drink and dine with their friends at one of the city’s many Korean grillhouses. People often drink several bottles of soju (see below), and combining beer and strong liquor is encouraged. In South Korea, group bonding through booze and food is a traditional characteristic.

In South Korea, where it is known as noraebang, karaoke is popular and readily accessible for people who like both singing and drinking. Larger businesses may feature Chinese, Japanese, and English music in addition to Korean songs.

Etiquette

When drinking with Koreans, there are a few etiquette standards to follow. You’re not meant to fill your own glass; instead, keep a watch on other people’s glasses and fill them up when they’re empty (but not before), and they’ll reciprocate. When pouring for someone or getting a drink, it’s considered courteous to use both hands and to tilt your head away from elders.

Younger individuals typically have a hard time declining a drink from an older person, so be cautious when asking someone younger than you if they want to drink more since they may feel powerless to refuse you. Of course, this is true in both directions. If you are not keeping up with the celebration, an older person may give you his glass, which he will then fill and expect you to drink. Returning the empty glass and refilling it as soon as possible is considered courteous.

Soju

Soju, a vodka-like alcoholic beverage, is South Korea’s national drink (usually around 20 percent alcohol by volume). It’s both inexpensive and powerful, with a 350ml bottle costing little more over 3,000 at bars (as low as 1,100 at convenience shops!). Typically, rice, barley, maize, potato, sweet potato, and other starches are fermented to create pure alcohol, which is then diluted with water and other tastes. Even if you just drink a little quantity, the production procedure leaves a lot of unwanted chemicals in the product, so expect a four-alarm hangover the next morning.

Soju was traditionally produced by distilling rice wine and aging it, yielding a pleasant spirit with a 40% alcohol content. Traditional sojus like as Andong Soju, which is named after the town of Andong, and munbaeju () are still available. These may be costly, but costs (as well as quality) vary widely.

Until the late Chosun dynasty and before Japanese invasion, there were many brewers across the nation, according to history. Using rice to make wine or spirits was, however, severely banned under Japanese colonialism and the repressive and economy-obsessed administration of the 1960s and 1970s. This wiped out the majority of the country’s traditional brewers, leaving just a few big distilleries (Jinro, Gyeongwol, Bohae, Bobae, Sunyang, and others) to produce ‘chemical soju.’ Brewery distribution and markets were regionalized, and it was impossible to obtain Jinro soju outside of Seoul (and even if you could, you’d have to pay a premium), Gyeongwol soju outside of Gangwon, or Sunyang soju outside of Chungcheong until the 1990s.

There are other soju cocktails like “socol” (soju + coke), “ppyong-gari” (soju + pocari sweat – ion drink), “so-maek” (soju + beer), and others, all of which are designed to make you drunk faster and for less money.

Rice wine

In Korea, unfiltered rice wines are known as takju, which literally means “cloudy alcoholic beverage.” These are produced in their most basic and traditional form by fermenting rice for a short time with nuruk, a combination of fungus and yeast that breaks down starch in rice into sugar (3-5 days usually). The liquid is then filtered and diluted to a concentration of 4-6 percent before being consumed. Unless otherwise indicated on the bottle, most takju are produced from wheat flour and other less expensive grains, similar to conventional soju. Makgeolli is the most basic takju, fermented once and then filtered, while dongdongju has additional rice added once or many times throughout the fermentation to increase the alcohol level and taste. As a consequence, you’ll usually discover a few of rice grains floating in dongdongjua.

Yakju or cheongju is a filtered rice wine that is comparable to sake in Japan. Rice is fermented for 2 weeks or more, then filtered and allowed to settle to allow the suspended particles to precipitate. The transparent wine on top, with approximately 12-15 percent alcohol, is the final product. There are a number of recipes that call for a variety of ingredients, as well as when and how to use them. Baekseju and ‘Dugyeonju are two popular brands.

The Traditional Korean Wine Museum in Jeonju is a must-see for anybody interested in the winemaking process and its history.

Ginseng wine

Korean ginseng wine (insamju), which is said to have therapeutic qualities and is especially popular among the elderly, is a costly yet delicious kind of alcohol available in Korea. As the name suggests, it is produced by fermenting Korean ginseng.

Beer

Western-style lagers are also popular in Korea, with Cass, Hite, and OB being the three most popular brands, all of which are light and watery and cost about 1,500 per bottle in a supermarket. The hof (hopeu) is Korea’s equivalent of a beer bar, serving pints of beer for 2,000-5,000 , but foreign beers may be considerably more costly. You are supposed to order food as well, and you may be given grilled squid or other Korean pub fare without doing so for a fee of about 10,000.

Tea and coffee

Koreans, like their neighbors, consume a lot of tea (cha), the majority of which is green (nokcha).

Korean teas, like Chinese and Japanese teas, are always consumed without the addition of milk or sugar. Western-style milk tea, on the other hand, may be found at Western restaurants and the typical American fast-food franchises.

Coffee (keopi) has been more readily accessible in recent years, particularly from streetside vending machines that can pour you a cup for as low as 300 . It is typically sweet and milky, although there is frequently a plain alternative.

Latte connoisseurs will be relieved to learn that high-quality western coffee shops can be found in all cities for about 4,000 from a reputable chain or individual coffee shop. Local coffee shops such as ‘Cafe Bene’ and ‘Angel in Us’ offer excellent coffee, plus there are lots of Starbucks locations, just like everywhere else.

It’s worthwhile to seek out independent coffee businesses that are passionate about their product. Many Koreans want to own their own coffee shop, and some accomplish so.

If you’re in a smaller town, the omnipresent bread store ‘Paris Baguette’ will serve you a good latte for about 2,000..

Smoke

While smoking is not as common in Korea as it is in Japan or China, many Korean men and a growing number of Korean women do, and it is very inexpensive in comparison to most of Europe and America. A pack of twenty cigarettes costs about 5,000 and may be purchased at any convenience shop. Because Koreans like mild cigarettes (about 6mg tar), Korean-made cigarettes may taste bland and flavorless when compared to cigarettes from America or Europe, and even Korean-produced Western cigarettes are considerably lighter than the originals (e.g. Full-strength Marlboro Reds in Korea have only 8mg tar, the same as Marlboro Lights in the US). It’s a good idea to carry some duty-free cigarettes with you if you like heavier smokes.

In public buildings, public transportation, and restaurants, smoking is prohibited. Despite the prohibition, some places will implicitly allow smoking, but they will never openly inform you that you may smoke for fear of legal consequences. Public smoking is likewise prohibited, although it is generally unenforced, and designated smoking places are few.

Note that smoking is not considered a feminine pastime in Korean culture, and therefore women who do so may be seen negatively by others. This is clearly sexist, but it is an element of Korean culture that female smokers should be aware of.

Money & Shopping in South Korea

Currency in South Korea

South Korea’s currency is the South Korean Won (KRW), which is written in Hangul. 

Bills are available in denominations of 1,000 (blue), 5,000 (red), 10,000 (green), and 50,000. (yellow). The 50,000 is extremely useful if you need to carry about a considerable sum of cash, but it may be difficult to spend for products or services worth less than 10,000. The 50,000 is difficult to come by and is often only available at ATMs that show an image of the yellow note on the exterior.

100,000 “checks” are commonly utilized, with some checks having a value of up to ten million. These checks are issued privately by banks and may be used in place of cash for bigger transactions like hotel rooms.

Coins are often available in denominations of 10, 50, 100, and 500. There are very uncommon 1 and 5 coins. In general, it is uncommon to purchase anything for less than 100.

Banking & Payment in South Korea

  • Credit card acceptance is extremely excellent at stores, hotels, and other businesses, and all but the cheapest restaurants and lodgings take Visa and MasterCard. Even modest expenditures, such as 4,000 for a cup of coffee, are acceptable. This works well since credit cards offer excellent conversion rates; but, if you are using a foreign card, check with your bank to verify that there is no charge for this international transaction.
  • ATMs are widely available, however using a foreign card with them is hit-or-miss, with the exception of foreign bank ATMs such as Citibank. There are, however, numerous Global ATMs that take international cards. They may usually be obtained at Shinhan/Jeju Bank, airports, places visited by foreigners, large cities, certain metro stations, and many Family Mart convenience shops, as indicated by the “Foreign Cards” button on the screen. However, before traveling to the countryside, make sure you have a backup source of money, such as cash, since international cards are less likely to be accepted. For international cards, certain banks, such as Citibank, charge a fee of 3,500.
  • T-Money card are an alternate form of payment that is frequently accepted, particularly for transportation. This card is available in Seoul at most metro stations, as well as numerous newspaper kiosks near subway entrances and convenience shops (7/11, CU, GS25). The card itself costs 3,000, and cash may be filled with credit as many times as you like. After that, you may receive your credit back in cash, minus a 500 return charge. Place the card on the reader while entering and exiting the bus/subway in Seoul. Be careful that on buses, particularly in rural areas, just putting it once upon entering is sufficient; otherwise, you will be charged twice – simply watch what the locals do. Using this card will save you 100 per journey on Seoul’s public transportation system, and it accounts for changes between subway, (airport) train, and bus for up to 30 minutes, i.e. instead of paying each single trip, a smaller amount or 0 is deducted the second, third, and so on, depending on the distance. Purchasing this card may not be cheaper for most visitors spending less than two weeks in Korea or Seoul, but consider this: it can be used nationwide for taxi fares, buses, storage lockers, pay phones, (convenience) shops, restaurants, and most transportation systems. There are other cards available, particularly outside of Seoul, and topping up T-Money may be difficult, but at Shinhan/Jeju Bank (remember the logo), it should always be feasible. Due to the Korean-only menus/buttons, you may need to ask the local cashier for assistance.
  • Bank account If you want to remain in South Korea for an extended period of time, you should open a local account with a Korean bank such as Woori Bank, which may then be used at the bank’s ATMs across the nation. (Some non-local accounts, for example, Woori Bank accounts opened in China come with an ATM card that may be used at any Woori Bank ATMs in South Korea.) Many banks may even enable you to establish an account while on a tourist visa, but the services you will be able to access will often be restricted. Some of the bigger banks may have English-speaking employees on staff at their main branches.

Prices in South Korea

South Korea is quite costly in comparison to other Asian nations, although it is slightly less expensive in comparison to other contemporary industrialized countries such as Japan and the majority of Western countries. A thrifty traveler who loves eating, living, and traveling in Korea may easily get by on less than 60,000 per day, but if you want top-class accommodations and Western cuisine, even 200,000/day would not enough. Seoul is more costly than the rest of the nation, and has been especially so in recent years as it competes with Tokyo in many respects, although this has lessened since the financial crisis.

Shopping in South Korea

  • Ginseng: Korea is the world’s ginseng (insam) capital. It may be found in unique mountain regions across Korea and is widely thought to have therapeutic qualities. Ginseng tea and other items are popular, as is a thick black paste produced from ginseng. Ginseng comes in a variety of grades, with the finest grades capable of earning millions of dollars at auction. Gyeongdong Herbal Medicine Market in Seoul is an excellent location to learn about the many kinds of ginseng.
  • Traditional items: Visitors searching for souvenirs can discover a broad range of options. At the many marketplaces and souvenir stores, you may discover a blue-jade celadon from the Goryeo Dynasty, handmade traditional costumes, paper kites, and ceramic items with patterns that represent human emotions. The first location to shop in Seoul would be Insadong. After a time, one shop may seem to resemble every other store, but chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for.
  • Fashion: Every weekend, consumers and boutique owners alike rush to the streets and marketplaces to keep up with the newest trends. Fashion centers, which are mostly concentrated in Seoul and include famous locations such as Dongdaemun, Mok dong Rodeo Street, and Myeong dong, may be classified into two broad categories: marketplaces and department shops. Markets are inexpensive, and each store will sell fashionable, comparable apparel that appeals to the people. Also, keep in mind that most shirts cannot be tried on. So it’s a good idea to know your size before going shopping there. Though department shops may offer discount sections or floors, they are regarded expensive and appeal mainly to an older, richer clientele.
  • Antiques: Jangangpyeong Antique Market in Seoul is a great place to find antique furniture, calligraphic works, pottery, and books. Be cautious, since goods older than 50 years are not permitted to leave the country.
  • Electronics: They are readily accessible, particularly in major cities like as Seoul and Busan. South Korea has the majority of the most recent technologies accessible in most Western nations, as well as much more. In reality, South Korea is likely to be second only to Japan in terms of consumer technology. However, you would most likely have to deal with instruction manuals and functionalities written in Korean.
  • K-Pop: South Korea was the birthplace of the hallyu (“Korean wave”) phenomenon that swept East Asia at the turn of the century, so you may want to purchase the newest Korean music CDs by famous K-pop artists and groups – and discover some of the lesser-known. The majority of music is now consumed as digital downloads, although there are still some music stores that offer CDs. And, of course, there is no better location to view them in person than South Korea.
  • K-Drama: In Asia, Korean drama is very popular, and a boxed DVD set of a drama can keep you entertained for many rainy days. Check to see whether the DVD set has subtitles in your preferred language. You may probably get the same Korean drama dubbed in another Asian language, such as Cantonese or Mandarin, outside of Korea. Drama serials and movies released in South Korea, on the other hand, are typically made for the Korean market and do not include subtitles. Furthermore, since South Korea is in DVD region 3, discs purchased here will play in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia, but not in North America, Europe, mainland China, Japan, or Australia. If you decide to purchase, make sure your DVD player can play it. It’s worth noting that CDs and DVDs are no longer widely used in South Korea, with the younger generation having shifted to digital downloads some time ago.

Festivals & Holidays in South Korea

Traditional Korean festivals are based on the lunar calendar and therefore occur on various days each year. The two most important, Seollal and Chuseok, are family holidays in which everyone returns to their hometowns in large numbers, causing all modes of transportation to be completely congested. It’s worth arranging your trip around these dates, and keep in mind that your best dining choices may be 7-Eleven noodle packages! You won’t notice much of a change on the other holidays, but all banks and government agencies will be closed.

  • Shinjeong (신정), is the Korean word for New Year’s Day, which falls on January 1st. Shin is a Korean term that roughly translates to “new.” The 1st of January is known as ‘Shinjeong,’ since it was the new method to celebrate the New Year when Korea embraced the Gregorian calendar.
  • Seollal (설날), commonly known as “Korean New Year” or “Gujeong,” is the Lunar New Year. Families meet to consume traditional dishes, particularly Ddugguk (), and to conduct an ancestor service. The holiday lasts three days, including the eve and second day. Many stores and restaurants will be closed for three days, so this may not be the best time to come.
  • Sameeljjeol (삼일절, 3.1절): 1st March, in memory of the March 1st resistance struggle against the invading Japanese Imperial Army in 1919.
  • Orininal (어린이날): The 5th of May is Children’s Day.
  • Buchonnim osinnal or sawolchopa-il: signifies Buddha’s birthday, which falls on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month.
  • Hyeonchung-il (현충일): 6th of June is Memorial Day. In honor of those who have given their lives for the country.
  • Gwangbokjjeol (광복절): On August 15th, Korea celebrates its independence. This day marks the formal conclusion of World War II, with the Japanese surrendering to Allied troops, as well as Korea achieving independence after decades of Japanese colonization.
  • Chuseok (추석), This holiday, also known as “Korean Thanksgiving,” is observed on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the year (usually September-October). Koreans celebrate by eating traditional dishes such as songpyeon, a rice cake, and performing folk games. The three-day public holiday is similar to Lunar New Year in that everything closes down, making visiting very tedious.
  • Hangeulnal (한글날) : ‘On October 9th, the Korean alphabet system celebrates its Hangeul Proclamation Day.
  • Gaecheonjeol (개천절): Wednesday, October 3rd. In remembrance of the ancient Korean nation’s initial formation.
  • Christmas (크리스마스/성탄절) is a major holiday in South Korea, but it is mostly observed by young couples who want to spend a romantic day together. Because Christians make up a substantial part of the population (about 30%), there is no lack of celebrations in the thousands of churches while the rest of the nation relaxes at home.

Traditions & Customs in South Korea

Koreans are known for their quiet demeanor and impeccable decorum, since they hail from a country steeped in Confucian order and etiquette. You will not be expected to know every detail as a guest, but making an attempt would be much appreciated. The farther you go away from major cities, the more conservative the population becomes.

Koreans are generally accepting to outsiders who are unfamiliar with all of Korea’s traditional traditions. Following these guidelines, however, will impress them:

  • When Koreans meet, they bow to express their respect for one another. They may also give each other a handshake. With individuals you know well, a simple nod of the head and annyeong haseyo (), which means “hello” (the exact translation is “do you have peace”) should enough.
  • When visiting numerous locations in Korea, it is imperative that you remove your shoes. When visiting someone’s house, it is customary to remove your shoes. Many excellent restaurants (particularly family-owned ones), smaller hospitals, medical clinics, and dentists also need it. Shoes are often left at the front entrance, and indoor slippers may be supplied for use inside.
  • When meeting for the first time, older Koreans are likely to inquire about your age, your parents’ occupations, your occupation, and your educational level. If the inquiries make you uncomfortable, simply provide brief replies and attempt to shift the subject as quietly as possible.
  • Never bring up your criminal past, or the criminal history of someone to whom you are connected, in conversation or in jest. Even if the offense is considered trivial in your own country, Koreans are likely to have an unfavorable opinion of you.
  • Always use two hands when lifting anything up or taking something from someone older. If you just have one hand available, you may support your right arm using your left. Similarly, when shaking hands with someone older, use your left hand to support your right arm.
  • When handing and receiving business cards, always use both hands, like in neighboring nations.
  • Koreans, in general, have strong patriotic beliefs and would react with different degrees of animosity to any criticism of their country. To avoid rubbing your hosts the wrong way, it’s best to laud the nation or, at the very least, avoid bringing up anything unpleasant about it.
  • Avoid bringing up the Japanese occupation, Dokdo Island, the early 1950s Korean conflict, or US foreign policy, or participate in any political conversations (unless specifically requested). It’s better to remain impartial and avoid any arguments if your hosts bring it up.
  • Make no effort, even in joke, to praise North Korea. On the other hand, since North Koreans are still referred to as “brother Koreans” and you are a foreigner, don’t go out of your way to criticize them.
  • South Korean homes often have stringent recycling rules: for example, one bin may be designated only for paper, while another in the kitchen may be designated solely for food/drink containers. Also keep in mind that each Korean district has its own recycling program! Garbage bags must be bought from a supermarket and must be of the kind specified by your local municipality.
  • When eating with Koreans, never pour your own drink; instead, take the effort to pour for others. When eating with Koreans, it is customary for the oldest to eat first.
  • In restaurants, it is usual to hear people speak loudly as a show of happiness and enjoyment of the meal. However, remember to be kind to elderly folks, particularly at the table. Making a loud noise in front of an elderly person is considered impolite in Korea.
  • Koreans, like their Chinese and Japanese neighbors, put a high value on “preserving face.” To prevent severe humiliation, it is recommended that you should not call out the errors of others unless you are in a position of seniority.
  • Although there are some parallels between Korean culture and that of nearby China and Japan, keep in mind that Koreans are passionately proud of their own culture and that national comparisons should be avoided.

Homosexuality in South Korea

Although the government does not recognize same-sex partnerships, there are no laws against homosexuality in South Korea. In bigger cities, gay clubs and pubs abound, but openly expressing your sexual orientation in public is still likely to be frowned upon. There are many evangelical Christians in South Korea who are fiercely opposed to homosexuality. Nonetheless, assaults against homosexual individuals, both verbal and physical, are uncommon.

Holding hands with a same-sex love partner, on the other hand, is frequent among platonic displays of physical affection between same-sex friends, especially when alcohol has been consumed.

Culture Of South Korea

South Korea and North Korea share a traditional culture, but since the peninsula was split in 1945, the two Koreas have evolved different modern cultures. While Korea’s culture has been significantly affected by that of neighboring China in the past, it has nevertheless managed to establish a separate cultural identity from that of its bigger neighbor. Through financing and teaching programs, the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism actively promotes both traditional and contemporary forms of art.

South Korea’s industrialization and urbanization have resulted in many changes in the way people live. Changing economy and lifestyles have resulted in a population concentration in large cities, particularly Seoul, with multi-generational families breaking up into nuclear family living arrangements. According to a Euromonitor survey from 2014, South Koreans consume the most alcohol on a weekly basis of anybody in the world. South Koreans consume 13.7 shots of liquor each week on average, with Russia, the Philippines, and Thailand coming in second and third, respectively, among the 44 nations studied.

Art in South Korea

Buddhism and Confucianism have had a strong impact on Korean art, which can be observed in the numerous traditional paintings, sculptures, pottery, and performing arts. Joseon’s baekja and buncheong, as well as Goryeo’s celadon, are well-known across the globe. Korean performing arts include the Korean tea ceremony, pansori, talchumand buchaechum.

In the 1960s and 1970s, when South Korean artists were interested in geometrical forms and intangible themes, postwar contemporary Korean art began to thrive. Creating a balance between man and nature was also a popular topic at the time. In the 1980s, social problems became prominent as a result of social unrest. In Korea, art was inspired by different foreign events and exhibitions, resulting in more variety. The Olympic Sculpture Garden in 1988, the Whitney Biennial’s 1993 relocation to Seoul, the founding of the Gwangju Biennale, and the Korean Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1995 were all significant occurrences.

Architecture in South Korea

Construction and destruction have been repeated constantly due to South Korea’s turbulent history, resulting in an intriguing mix of architectural styles and forms.

The harmony of Korean traditional building with nature is its distinguishing feature. The bracket system, which is typified by thatched roofs and heated floors known as ondol, was adopted by ancient architects. The higher classes constructed larger homes with beautifully curved tiled roofs and soaring eaves. Palaces and temples, as well as preserved ancient homes known as hanok and unique places such as Hahoe Folk Village, Yangdong Village of Gyeongju, and Korean Folk Village, all feature traditional architecture. Traditional architecture may also be seen in South Korea’s nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Western architecture was first brought to Korea. New styles were used to construct churches, offices for foreign laws, schools, and university buildings. The colonial government interfered in Korea’s architectural history with Japan’s conquest of the country in 1910, imposing Japanese-style contemporary building. Most structures built during the period were destroyed due to anti-Japanese sentiment during the Korean War.

During the post-Korean War rebuilding, Korean architecture began a new era of growth, integrating contemporary architectural ideas and styles. Active redevelopment, fueled by economic expansion in the 1970s and 1980s, witnessed new frontiers in architectural design. Following the 1988 Seoul Olympics, South Korea’s architectural environment has seen a broad range of styles, thanks in large part to the market’s opening up to international architects. Contemporary architectural endeavors have been continually attempting to strike a balance between the ancient concept of “harmony with nature” and the country’s rapid urbanization in recent years.

Cuisine in South Korea

Hanguk yori also known as hansik, is a kind of Korean cuisine that has developed through centuries of social and political upheaval. Provinces have different ingredients and cuisines. There are many important regional cuisines that have spread throughout the nation in various forms in recent years. For the royal family, Korean royal court food formerly brought together all of the distinct regional specialities. A distinct tradition of etiquette governs the consumption of meals by both the royal family and ordinary Korean people.

Rice, noodles, tofu, veggies, seafood, and meats make up the majority of Korean cuisine. Traditional Korean dinners are known for the abundance of banchan (), or side dishes, that accompany steam-cooked short-grain rice. Every meal comes with a variety of banchan. One of the most well-known Korean foods is kimchi  a fermented, typically spicy vegetable dish that is frequently eaten at every meal. Sesame oil, doenjang (a kind of fermented soybean paste), soy sauce, salt, garlic, ginger, and gochujang (a spicy pepper paste) are often used in Korean cuisine. Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef), Gimbap (spicy rice cake), and Tteokbokki (spicy rice cake seasoned with gochujang or a hot chili sauce) are all popular meals.

Soups are a frequent component of a Korean meal, and they are served as part of the main course rather than at the start or finish. Guk soups are often prepared with meats, seafood, and vegetables. Tang (;), like guk, contains less water and is more often offered in restaurants. Jjigae, a stew that is usually highly seasoned with chili pepper and served boiling hot, is another variation.

Snack businesses in South Korea, such as Lotte, are known for producing a broad variety of Korean or Asian-inspired snacks. Pepero, a Japanese snack that is similar to Pocky, is one example. Lotte Confectionery is the maker of Pepero.

Soju, Makgeolli, and Bokbunja ju are all popular Korean alcoholic drinks.

Metal chopsticks are used only in Korea, making it unusual among Asian nations. Metal chopsticks have been found at ancient sites in Goguryeo.

Entertainment in South Korea

South Korean entertainment, such as television dramas, films, and popular music, has produced substantial financial earnings for the South Korean economy in addition to domestic consumption. South Korea has become a significant soft power as an exporter of popular culture and entertainment, rivaling many Western nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom, thanks to the cultural phenomenon known as Hallyu, or the “Korean Wave,” which has swept many countries throughout Asia.

Trot and ballads dominated South Korean popular music until the 1990s. Seo Taiji and Boys’ debut in 1992 was a watershed moment in South Korean popular music, commonly known as K-pop, since the group integrated aspects of Western popular musical genres such as hip hop, rhythm and blues, electronic dance, jazz, reggae, funk, and rock into their songs. Hip hop, rhythm and blues, rock, electronic dance, and ballad artists have dominated the South Korean popular music industry, but elderly South Koreans still love trot. K-pop artists and groups are well-known across Asia, and their worldwide success has resulted in millions of dollars in export income. Using online social media sites like as YouTube, several K-pop artists have been able to build a large international fanbase. When PSY’s song “Gangnam Style” reached the top of the worldwide music charts in 2012, he became an international phenomenon. BTS, a Korean boy band, has lately achieved enormous success, with their album Wings hitting number 26 on the Billboard 200.

The Korean cinema industry has started to acquire worldwide attention with the success of Shiri in 1999. Domestic films have a large portion of the market, thanks in part to screen quotas that require theaters to play Korean films at least 73 days each year.

Outside of Korea, South Korean television programs have grown popular. Princess Hours, You’re Beautiful, Playful Kiss, My Name is Kim Sam Soon, Boys Over Flowers, Winter Sonata, Autumn in My Heart, Full House, City Hunter, All About Eve, Secret Garden, I Can Hear Your Voice, Master’s Sun, My Love from the Star, and Descendants of the Sun are just a few examples of dramas with a romantic focus. Faith, Dae Jang Geum, The Legend, Dong Yi, Moon Embracing the Sun, and Sungkyunkwan Scandal are examples of historical dramas.

Stay Safe & Healthy in South Korea

Stay Safe in South Korea

Crime

South Korea is a relatively safe nation, with recorded crime rates that are much lower than those in the United States and similar to those in other European Union countries. Even in the main cities, crime rates are similar to those in other safe locations like as Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and it is safe to stroll about at night. Violent crime against residents and visitors is uncommon. The only foreigners who get into problems in South Korea are those who are intoxicated and start fights in pubs or clubs.

If you get into any difficulty, there are police stations in every area, typically within walking distance of metro stations and bus stops. While most police officers do not speak English, they do have translators on hand who can help you.

Racism

South Korea is a highly ethnically homogenous nation, which is a source of pride for many South Koreans. Non-Koreans face systemic prejudice, and there is no anti-discrimination law in place. Despite this, South Korea is evolving. Today, 3.5 percent of inhabitants were born outside of the United States, with that figure projected to grow to 10% by 2020. Foreigners’ negative views are gradually fading. It was formerly considered impolite for a foreign guy to hold hands in public with a South Korean lady, but this is no longer the case. Any horror tales you hear should be seen in the perspective of the good developments.

The sad truth is that being Caucasian almost guarantees you will not be subjected to much, if any, racist abuse. Many companies favor Caucasians over other races when hiring in South Korea, particularly in teaching jobs (this may be one of the reasons they ask for a picture on your application). People with darker complexion face greater difficulties, including being banned from saunas and bars.

The majority of tourists visiting South Korea are unlikely to have any difficulties. If you are the victim of racial abuse, you may seek assistance from the authorities, but realistically, if no other crime has been committed, they will most likely attempt to reason with the abuser.

People from North Korea face prejudice in society, partially due to mistrust (North Korea has dispatched assassins and spies dressed as refugees) and partly due to the difficulties of integrating into a culture that is radically different. Ethnic Koreans from China are often misunderstood because they are linked with poverty and criminality. People from Southeast Asia are also discriminated against since they make up the majority of low-wage immigrant labor.

Traffic

South Korean motorists will race past pedestrian crossings, run red lights, and approach within a hair’s breadth of pedestrians and other vehicles, despite having one of the worst rates of traffic fatalities in the world. Drivers will not stop even when the signal turns red. So, be cautious. Motorcyclists are especially dangerous on packed sidewalks, weaving in and out. It is up to you to stay away from them.

There is a lot of debate about why this occurs, but it essentially boils down to Koreans seeing traffic regulations as recommendations to be followed rather than rules to be followed.

Pedestrian crosswalks are only green for a brief moment. Do not cross while the walk signal is blinking and you are still at the curb. Instead, you should wait for the light to turn green and be prepared. Wait 3 to 5 seconds after it turns green to observe whether other pedestrians begin to cross, and if all traffic has really stopped, then walk quickly to cross securely. At congested junctions, it is safer to use subterranean tunnels. It’s also worth noting that most mopeds would rather weave past people than wait in traffic.

South Korea likewise follows the American practice of permitting vehicles to turn right at red lights if they yield to pedestrians (in principle). Left turns on green lights, on the other hand, are prohibited unless accompanied by a blue sign pointing left or a green left arrow.

On a three-lane street, stay in the center lane. Without notice, the left lane will likely become a left-turn-only lane (watch for straight arrows painted on the road with an X in them!) Moreover, illegally parked vehicles often obstruct the right lane.

In Korea, there are many zebra (black and white pedestrian) crossings that are mostly disregarded by all vehicles. You may utilize them as a foreigner simply walking onto the crossing and looking down any oncoming vehicles, who will typically yield. It is critical that you be vigilant while crossing roadways. Taxis, buses, freight trucks, and delivery scooters are more prone to break traffic laws because they are under pressure from strict schedules or their clients to do so.

Illegal taxis

Illegal taxis are an issue, and they may be found even at the airport. Each Korean city has a unique taxi scheme with a distinct vehicle color, so check out the taxi scheme in your target city before you arrive. Ignore anybody at the airport who asks if you want a cab and go straight to the official taxi queue.

Civil unrest

Political activists of all stripes may be found in the heart of Seoul’s political district, between Gwanghamun and City Hall, and protests can number in the tens of thousands. You’ll need to exercise caution since political protests may be violent, with water cannons and tear gas often used, and huge crowds can be dangerous. Demonstrators and police are constantly fighting, yet immigrants are never targeted.

Local laws

Ignorance of the law is not a justification for violating it, and it may even be used to justify heavier penalties. They include hefty fines, long prison terms, and deportation without delay.

With respect to North Korea, South Korea has enacted the draconian National Security Act, which prohibits any illegal interaction with the nation or its people. Although international tourists are seldom affected, you should be cautious since being affiliated with any “anti-State organization”  is a criminal crime. With this in mind, you should never exhibit any North Korean insignia or be seen praising North Korean personalities in public, on websites, or on social media, especially Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un. It is not a justification to do this as a joke, and criminal convictions may result in a sentence of up to seven years in jail.

North Korean or North Korean-affiliated organizations’ websites are banned in South Korea. In any event, attempting to access them may be seen as “communication” with an anti-State organization.

Gambling

South Korean residents are prohibited from gambling, but a small number of casinos are open to foreigners exclusively in Seoul, Busan, and Jeju Island. To access these businesses, you will need to carry your passport.

Wildlife

The Asian gigantic hornet (also known as the “commander bee”) is approximately 2 in (5 cm) long and may sting several times, causing severe agony. If you come into a hornet guarding its nest or feeding area, it will emit a clicking sound to warn you away. If you are stung, get medical help right away since prolonged exposure to the venom may result in severe harm or even death. They are most often spotted in the summer.

In Korea, there are just a few additional creatures that may be harmful. On the Korean Peninsula, the Siberian Tiger is no longer found. Large wild boars may be seen in wooded regions on occasion and can be very deadly if attacked. Keep a safe distance from a boar with piglets since the mother will not hesitate to defend them.

Off the coast of South Korea, large sharks such as the Great White and Hammerhead are becoming increasingly common. Although a few abalone divers have been murdered in the last 20 years, there has never been a documented assault on swimmers. The most popular beaches are carefully patrolled, so you are unlikely to be in danger.

Natural hazards

Natural disasters are not as common in South Korea as they are in its neighbors. Earthquakes are uncommon in the United States, but small ones may occur sometimes in the southwest. Tsunamis are a known danger in coastal regions, however due to Japan’s strategic location, most Tsunamis never reach Korea. While typhoons do not occur as often in the Philippines as they do in Japan, Taiwan, or the Philippines, they do occur nearly every year and are sometimes known to be fatal and inflict significant property damage.

Conflict with North Korea

The risk of conflict is a reasonable worry while going to South Korea. While conflict has remained a real possibility since the conclusion of the Korean War more than 60 years ago, the North Koreans seem to have honed their skills at sabre-rattling and limited provocations that never turn into full-fledged combat. This isn’t to argue that miscalculations won’t lead to disaster; it’s only to state that a single missile launch or widely reported border closure doesn’t indicate war is imminent.

If a full-scale war broke out between the North and the South, there would almost definitely be numerous civilian and military deaths. If anything like this happened when you were in Seoul, it would be very dangerous. Following the ascension of Kim Jong Un as North Korea’s leader, there has been a lot of brinkmanship, and outright war seems to be increasingly probable. However, no major conflict has erupted, and it is fair to state that the chance of all-out war is very remote, but it is prudent to consider the hazards while arranging a trip to South Korea.

There isn’t much you can do to reduce the likelihood of military action. Find out how to call your embassy and stay informed about the current situation while traveling. In the event of a conflict, most embassies will have a plan in place to evacuate their people. Also, since Seoul’s Incheon International Airport is so near to the North Korean border, it may not be a good idea to rush there in search of a flight out.

Emergency numbers

  • Police: 112 from a phone and region code-112 from a cellular phone
  • Fire and ambulance services: 119 and region code-119 from a cellular.

Emergency-service 24 hour a day, 7 days a week, English interpreters are available.

Stay Healthy in South Korea

South Korean healthcare is renowned for its research and clinical medical expertise, and most towns will be able to provide high-quality treatment. The country’s large number of hospitals and specialist clinics will also provide you with more options. South Korea also encourages ‘Health Tourism,’ in which high-quality procedures may be had for a fraction of the cost in many other affluent nations.

  • Because physicians in South Korea are among the best educated in the nation, they are fluent in English. Many people have earned their medical degrees in the United States. However, because of their Korean accent, you may find it difficult to understand them, so urge them to slow down and go over everything with you carefully. Nurses, on the other hand, will seldom, if ever, speak English.
  • In South Korea, health care is often of excellent quality and cheap cost. It is government-subsidized and quite inexpensive in comparison to other Western nations. Expatriates with the appropriate medical insurance card will be eligible for further savings. Many foreigners go to South Korea seeking medical procedures that are both cheaper and of better quality than those available in their own country.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (along with Traditional Korean Medicine) is highly respected in South Korea and includes acupuncture, heating, and herbal medicine, among other traditional techniques. Traditional Chinese Medicine has a long history, and practitioners must pass a rigorous government certification process before practicing. Koreans often utilize eastern medicine for persistent illnesses like back pain and western treatment for injuries that occur suddenly. It’s difficult to evaluate the efficacy of oriental medicine since it treats the entire body rather than a single illness, yet it’s a generally accepted component of the Korean medical system. It’s important to remember that Western medicine doesn’t always acknowledge the efficacy of Oriental medical treatments.
  • Pharmacies may be found nearly anywhere and are identified by a single big word (called ‘yak’ in English). Because hospitals in South Korea are not permitted to distribute take-home prescriptions, a separate pharmacy will almost always be present. Small paper packets are used to distribute prescriptions.
  • Hepatitis A is recognized across the country and affects the liver after eating infected food and water, despite the fact that no official vaccines are needed or advised for tourists. Once infected, the only treatment is time. Infection prevalence in South Korea is classified as moderate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Drinking Water. The tap water in South Korea is completely safe to drink, but you may wish to boil and filter it to remove the chlorine odor. When trekking over mountains or visiting monasteries, Koreans are particularly fond of drinking mountain spring water, which is totally untreated. Some areas in Korea have community wells that provide fresh water, and the local government is supposed to examine them periodically to ensure their safety.

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