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South Korea Country Guide

  1. Country Facts
  2. Health
  3. Media
  1. Intro
  2. Geography
  3. People
  4. Travel
  5. Embassies & Visas
  6. Finance
  7. Cities/Regions

Quick Facts

Region: Asia & Oceania
Full Name: Republic of Korea
Capital City: Seoul
Language Spoken: Korean, English widely taught in junior high and high school

South Korea Travel Insurance

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flag-south-korea

Geographic data

37 00 N, 127 30 E

Elevation Extremes

lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m

Land boundaries

total: 238 km border countries: North Korea 238 km

Natural hazards

occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest

Natural resources

coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential

Land use

arable land: 16.58% permanent crops: 2.01% other: 81.41% (2005)

Environmental current issues

air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing

Climate

Moderate climate with four seasons. The hottest part of the year is during the rainy season between July and August, and the coldest is December to February. Spring and autumn are mild and mainly dry and are generally considered the best times to visit. Required clothing Lightweight cottons and linens are worn during summer, with light- to mediumweights in spring and autumn. Medium- to heavyweights are advised during the winter.

Time difference

time difference: UTC+9

Population

48,846,823 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 18.9% (male 4,844,083/female 4,368,139) 15-64 years: 71.9% (male 17,886,148/female 17,250,862) 65 years and over: 9.2% (male 1,818,677/female 2,678,914) (2006 est.)

Median age

total: 35.2 years male: 34.2 years female: 36.3 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate

0.42% (2006 est.)

Birth rate

10 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate

5.85 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.11 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.68 male(s)/female total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 77.04 years male: 73.61 years female: 80.75 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.27 children born/woman (2006 est.)

Business Practices

Businessmen are expected to wear a suit and tie. English is widely spoken in commercial and official circles. Prior appointments are necessary. For Koreans, relationships are all important; "cold calls" don't work -- introductions are crucial! Koreans want to do business with people with whom they have formed a personal connection. Business cards are widely used, perferably printed both in English and Korean. The use of the right hand when giving and receiving particularly applies to business cards. Office hours are 0900-1800 Monday to Friday and 0900-1300 Saturday.

Crime

Although the crime rate in the Republic of Korea is low, in major metropolitan areas, such as Seoul and Pusan, there is greater risk of pickpocketing, purse-snatching, hotel room burglaries, and residential crime, and foreigners can be targeted. Women should exercise caution when traveling alone in taxis, especially at night, as there have been incidents reported involving unwanted attention by taxi drivers towards unaccompanied female passengers. In addition, there have been occasional reports of the molestation and rape of foreigners. Travelers may reduce the likelihood of encountering such incidents by exercising the same type of security precautions that they would take when visiting high crime areas any urban center. While police statistics reflected a small increase in crime since 2003, there have been relatively few incidents involving the expatriate community. Most reported crimes involve pick pocketing in tourist areas and crowded markets, and are predominantly non-violent in nature. Korea is a country with strong gun control laws; consequently crimes involving firearms are statistically low. The Korean National Police (KNP) operate a Central Interpretation Center (CIC) where foreigners can report incidents of crime. The CIC is available on a twenty-four hour, seven-day-a-week basis. In Seoul, call telephone number 313-0842; outside of Seoul, call (02)313-0842. English speakers are not always available at the CIC, so it may be helpful to ask a Korean speaker to place the call. Radical student demonstrations continue as a part of Korean life in many cities, but a large number of these demonstrations are confined to university campuses by the Korean National Police (KNP). Students will use Molotov cocktails and carry steel pipes; the police will launch hundreds or even thousands of rounds of tear gas, depending on the size of the protest. Should a visitor realize that a demonstration is about to occur nearby, he/she should stay in his/her hotel or office until the demonstration ends, or if already outside, depart the area as soon as possible.

Hotels

There are many modern tourist and business-class hotels in the major cities and tourist areas. Hotels are registered with the Government. Facilities in most better hotels include dining rooms, convention halls, bars, souvenir shops, cocktail lounges, barber and beauty shops and recreation areas.

Communications

Telephone IDD service is available to Seoul and other major cities. T he country code is 82 and the outgoing international code is 001 Fax services are available at major hotels and business centers. Post offices open 0900-1700 Monday to Friday; 0900-1300 Saturday. SK Telecom is the main mobile telephone network provider (website: www.sktelecom.co.kr). A CDMA mobile network with 800MHz is in use. It is possible to rent a CDMA handset to use with GSM sim cards whilst in Korea (contact SK Telecom, as above). A new 3G network was introduced in 2002.

Electricity

is a 110/220 volts AC, 60Hz. The policy is to phase out the 110-volt supply. Electricity 110/220 volts AC, 60Hz. Government policy is to phase out the 110 volt supply and many hotels now have a 220 volt supply. Social conventions Shoes should be removed before entering a Korean home. Entertainment is usually lavish and Koreans may sometimes be offended if their hospitality is refused. Customs are similar to those in the West. Small gifts are customary and traditional etiquette requires the use of the right hand for giving and receiving. Dress should be casual and practical clothes are suitable. Traditional costume, or hanbok, is mainly worn on holidays and special occasions. For men it consists of a short jacket and loose trousers, called baji, that are tied at the ankles. Womens? hanboks comprise a wrap-around skirt and a bolero-style jacket and is often called a chima-jeogori. Both ensembles may be topped by a long coat called a durumagi.

Plug Types

C,F

Food And Dining

Korea has its own cuisine, quite different from Chinese or Japanese. Rice is the staple food and a typical Korean meal consists of rice, soup, rice water and eight to 20 side dishes of vegetables, fish, poultry, eggs, bean-curd and sea plants. Most Korean soups and side dishes are heavily laced with red pepper.

National specialties:
? Bibimbap (boiled rice mixed with vegetables).
? Kimchi (Korean national dish, highly spiced pickle of Chinese cabbage or white radish with turnips, onions, salt, fish, chestnuts and red pepper).
? Bulgogi (marinated, charcoal-broiled beef barbecue).
? Grilled galbi (seasoned ribs).
? Haemultang (seafood stew). National drinks:
? Yakju (refined pure liquor fermented from rice).
? Soju (like vodka and made from potatoes or grain).
? Korean beer: Cass, Hite and OB.
? Makgeolli and donggongju (milky liquor).
? Ginseng wine is strong and sweet, similar to brandy, but varies in taste according to the basic ingredient used.
? Tea: nokcha (green tea), insamcha (ginseng tea) and many other varieties. Things to know: There is waiter as well as counter service. Most major hotels will offer a selection of restaurants, serving Korean, Japanese and Chinese cuisine or more Western-style food. Korean Food is a 44-page e-book available from Korea National Tourism Organization?s website (see Top Things To Do). The most common type of drinking establishment is the suljip (wine bar), but there are also beer houses serving well-known European brands. Koreans offer glasses of liquor to each other as a gesture of camaraderie. When someone offers you an empty glass you are expected to hold it out and receive a fill-up and then to drink it empty. Juniors pour for seniors. Tipping : Although not a Korean custom, most hotels and other tourist facilities add a 10 per cent service charge to bills. Taxi drivers are not tipped unless they help with the luggage. Note For visitors who purchase goods worth more than KRW50,000 at stores with ?Tax Free Shopping? signs or goods over KRW30,000 at outlets with ?Tax Refund Shopping? signs, 70 to 80 per cent of the paid VAT (Value Added Tax) and SET (Special Excise Tax) will be refunded in cash at the airport. Only visitors staying less than three months are eligable. Purchases and receipts may need to be shown to the customs officer.

Nightlife
Korea?s nightlife successfully blends the traditional with increasing external influences. Yong-Dong and Itaewon are areas of Seoul with nightclubs catering largely to visitors, many with cabaret evenings. Some hotels also have nightclubs but these tend to be expensive. Larger hotels have their own private theater restaurants. Beer halls, many decorated along a European theme, are popular places to drink and meet friends. Visitors are expected to eat as well as drink. There are also many cinemas. Operas, concerts and recitals can be seen at the National Theater and performances of Korean classical music, dances and plays can be seen at Korea House. For daily listings of events, consult Korea?s English-language papers. Several licensed state-of-the-art casinos operate at various locations throughout the country.

Entry departure requirements

* Please see passport section below

Visa immigration information

Passports

Passport valid for a minimum of three months required by all.

Visas

Required by all except the following:
(a) nationals countries referred to in the table above except 1. nationals of Latvia and Slovak Republic, who do need a visa;
(b) nationals of Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Grenada, Guam, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong (SAR), Iceland, Israel, Jamaica, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Macau (SAR), Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Romania, Serbia & Montenegro, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Surinam, Swaziland, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuala and Yemen.

Types of visa and cost

Single-entry (up to 90 days): US$28 . Single-entry (more than 90 days): US$48 Multiple-entry: US$77 The same fees apply for both business and tourist visas. Nationals of Italy, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan (China), Thailand and UK can obtain a visa valid up to six months free of charge.

Validity

30-, 60- or 90-days.

Application to

Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy); see Passport/Visa Information for details.

Application requirements

These may vary according to visa required and nationality of applicant. (a) Valid passport. (b) Completed application form. (c) One recent passport-size color photo. (d) Fee, payable by cash or postal order (but not cheque). (e) Stamped, self-addressed envelope, if applicable. (f) Proof of sufficient funds (a bank statement for ?1000 if not working in the UK and a company letter if working in the UK). Short-term business: (a)-(f) and, (g) Substantiating documents for the activity of the applicant, eg letter of invitation from the host company in the Republic of Korea, business-related documents etc. Private visit: (a)-(f) and, (g) A certificate for confirmation of visa issuance, obtained by the person in Korea with whom the applicant will be staying. Student: (a)-(f) and, (g) Standard admission letter for students, substantiating the educational ability and coverage of the expense of the applicant, issued by the president or a dean of the University. (h) Substantiating documents for researchers, including a reference, if applicable.

Note

(a) For a national who cannot fulfill the necessary requirements and entry conditions (such as the expiration of passport validity) due to unavoidable circumstances, or is required for further review before a visa can be issued, a conditional entry permit may be granted with a validity of up to 72 hours. In regards to this permit, the chief of a district or branch office may impose conditions such as a reference, financial guarantee, restrictions on duration of stay, a duty to obey summons or other necessary conditions, and, if deemed necessary, a monetary deposit not exceeding 10 million won (US$10,000). (b) When a short-term visitor or unregistered national who visited Korea (DPR) re-enters the Republic of Korea, an immigration officer shall issue the same visa which was granted, minus the duration of stay in Korea (DPR). If a national?s duration of stay on the visa expired whilst in Korea (DPR), or remaining period is less than 30 days, a new visa may have to be granted. (c) A national who wishes to enter the Republic of Korea via Korea (DPR) must carry a valid passport and visa. If the national has a visa waiver agreement with the Republic of Korea, they must present a passport, a written paper outlining the reason for visiting Korea (DPR) and E/D Card (Immigration Card) to the Immigration officer at an inspection counter.

Working days required

Five.

Temporary residence

Applications for a residence certificate or for a stay of more than 90 days should be made to the Immigration Office in Seoul. For details contact the Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy); see Passport/Visa Information.

HIV entry requirements

Test required for foreigners working in the entertainment industry

Departure tax

KRW10,000. Transit passengers and infants under two years old are exempt.

Embassies

Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the UK

60 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AJ, UK
Tel: (020) 7227 5500 or 5505 (consular section).
Website: www.korea.embassyhomepage.com
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0930-1230, 1400-1730.

Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the USA

2450 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Consular section: 2320 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Tel: (202) 939 5600 or 5661-3 (consular section).
E-mail: [email protected] (consular section).

Most visits to the Republic of Korea are trouble-free but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate international terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.
Developments in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) (North Korea) could potentially give rise to regional tension.
It is recommended that British nationals coming to the ROK for longer than two weeks should register with the Consular Section of the British Embassy.
This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organizations for the latest travel advice:

British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-korea

US Department of State

Website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/KoreaRepublicof.html

Currency

Won (KRW). Notes are in denominations of KRW10,000, 5000 and 1000. KRW1000 is called Chon Won in Korean (chon means ?one thousand?). Coins are in denominations of KRW500, 100, 50 and 10.

Currency restrictions

The import and export of local currency is allowed up to KRW8,000,000. The import of foreign currency is unlimited, provided amounts greater than US$10,000 (including traveller's cheques) are declared on arrival. Export of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on arrival.

Banking hours

Mon-Fri 0900-1700.

Currency exchange

Foreign banknotes and travelers cheques can be exchanged at foreign exchange banks and other authorized money changers. ATMs are available in all major cities, but all instructions are in Korean.

Credit cards

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted at major hotels, shops and restaurants in the larger cities. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.

Travellers cheques

Accepted, but may be difficult to change in smaller towns. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers are advised to take travelers cheques in US Dollars. The Korea Travel Card (KTC) This is a multi-purpose, pre-paid travel card sold by the Korean National Tourism Office, Shinhan Card and the Shinhan Bank, only to foreign tourists or residents. This card provides discounts on currency charges, international and national calls and provides free travel insurance. The card can be bought in denominations of KRW100,000, 200,000, 300,000, 500,000 or in a customized amount between KRW100,000 and 500,000.

City/RegionCity/Area codeFollowed by
Busan(0)51+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
Cheju-Do(0)64+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
Chulla-Buk Do (Province)(0)63+ 4/8 digit subscriber nr
Chulla-Nam Do (Province)(0)61+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
Chungchong-Buk Do (Province)(0)43+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
Chungchong-Nam Do (Province)(0)41+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
Daegu(0)53+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
Dae-Jun(0)42+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
In-Chun(0)32+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
Kangwon-Do (Province)(0)33+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
Kwang-Ju(0)62+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
Kyonggi-Do (Province)(0)31+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
Kyoung-Sang-Buk Do (Province)(0)54+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
Kyoung-Sang-Nam Do (Province)(0)55+ 4/7 digit subscriber nr
Seoul(0)2+ 3/8 digit subscriber nr
Ulsan(0)52+ 4/8 digit subscriber nr
  1. Health Information
  2. Recent Disease Outbreaks
  3. Hospital Database

Dental care

Good quality dental care is available in South Korea

Medication Availability

Some international medication is available from the larger pharmacies and hospitals in the larger towns and cities.

Blood supplies

Blood supplies are considered safe and screened to international standards, although there is generally a shortage of supplies

Medical facilities

Health care facilities in the Republic of Korea are good.

General caution

Recent medical and dental exams should ensure that the traveler is in good health. Carry appropriate health and accident insurance documents and copies of any important medical records. Bring an adequate supply of all prescription and other medications as well as any necessary personal hygiene items, including a spare pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses if necessary. Take personal protective measures against insects. Drink only bottled beverages (including water) or beverages made with boiled water. Do not use ice cubes or eat raw seafood or rare meat. Eat well-cooked foods while they are still hot and fruits that can be peeled without contamination. Avoid roadside stands and street vendors. Only pasteurized dairy products should be consumed.

Specific concerns

The blood type of the general Asian populace is Rh positive; Rh negative blood may be difficult to obtain.

Immunization

Hepatitis A: Consider active immunization with hepatitis A vaccine or passive immunization with immune globulin (IG) for all susceptible travelers. Especially consider choosing active immunization for persons planning to reside for a long period or for persons who take frequent short-term trips to risk areas. The importance of protection against hepatitis A increases as length of stay increases. It is particularly important for persons who will be living in or visiting rural areas, eating or drinking in settings of poor or uncertain sanitation, or who will have close contact with local persons (especially young children) in settings with poor sanitary conditions. Hepatitis B: Vaccination is advised for health care workers, persons anticipating direct contact with blood from or sexual contact with inhabitants, and persons planning extended stays of 6 months or greater (especially those who anticipate using local health care facilities, staying in rural areas, or having intimate contact with the local population). Japanese Encephalitis: Consider vaccination if staying a month or more from July to October, especially if travel includes rural areas. Also consider if staying less than 30 days during that period and at high risk (in case of epidemic outbreak or extensive outdoor exposure in rural areas). Typhoid: Vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 3 weeks, adventurous eaters, and those who will venture off the usual tourist routes into small cities, villages and rural areas. Importance of vaccination increases as access to reasonable medical care becomes limited. Contraindications depend on vaccine type. Note: All routine vaccines (such as DTP or Td, Hib, MMR, polio, varicella, influenza and pneumococcal) should be kept up-to-date as a matter of good health practice unrelated to travel.

Disease risk summary

Insect-borne illness: Dengue fever - occurs Encephalitis (Japanese type) - occurs (sporadic/endemic; major outbreaks not reported since 1982-1983) Encephalitis (tick-borne) - occurs Hemorrhagic fever (with renal syndrome) - occurs Filariasis (Malayan type) - occurs Typhus (mite-borne) - occurs Food-borne and water-borne illness: diseases such as the diarrheal diseases and viral hepatitis are common. Clonorchiasis (oriental liver fluke) - occurs Paragonimiasis (oriental lung fluke) - occurs Other hazards: Diseases such as measles and diphtheria are commonly reported. Influenza risk extends from November to April. Rabies - reportedly rabies-free (although this status is considered provisional)

Entry requirements

AIDS: According to the Department of State, testing is required for foreigners working as entertainers staying over 90 days and foreign athletes who are members of Korean teams. Foreign test results are accepted under certain conditions. Contact South Korea's embassy for details.

Recent disease outbreaks

No recent disease outbreaks

NameAddress
Asan Medical Center International Clinic2-388 Pungnap-dong Songpa-gu Seoul 138-736
Cha General Hospital - Foreign Clinic650-9 Yoksam-dong Kangnam-gu Seoul 135-081
Daewoo Hospital363 Dumo Dong Geoje City Gyeongnam 656-711
Dong-A University Hospital3-1 Dongdaeshin-dong Seo-gu Pusan 620-715
Dongsan Medical Center - KeimyungInternational Clinic - 3F 194 Dongsan-dong Jung-ku Teagu
Inha University Hospital International Clinic7-206 Shinhung-Dong 3-Ga Choong-Gu Inchon 400-103
International Health Service-SMC50 Iwon-Dong Kangnam-Ku Seoul 135-230
Kangnam St. Mary's Hospital505 Banpo-Dong Seocho-Gu Seoul 137-70
Korea Cancer Center HospitalKorea Atomic Energy Research Institute 215-4 Gongneung-Dong, Nowon-Ku Seoul 139-240
Kyongbuk University Hospital2-52 Samdok-dong Chung-ku Taegu
Pusan National University Hospital10, 1-ga, Ami-dong, Seo-gu Pusan/Busan 602-739
Pusan University Hospital1-10 Ami-dong Seo-ku Pusan
Seoul National University HospitalInternational Healthcare Service 28 Yongon-dong Chongno-gu Seoul 110-744
Severance HospitalInternational Health Care Center Yonsei University College of Medicine 134 Shinchon-Dong Seodaemun-Gu Seoul 120-752
Soonchonhyang University Hospital657 Hannam-dong Yongsan-ku Seoul
Wallace Memorial Baptist Hospital376-75 Namsan-dong, Geumjeong-gu Pusan/Busan 609-340
Yongdong Severance HospitalYonsei University College of Medicine 146-92 Dogok-Dong Kangnam-Gu Seoul 135-720

Media

The major terrestrial TV networks dominate viewing and advertising revenue. Many South Koreans are connected to cable TV services and a digital satellite TV service competes for multichannel subscribers. There are more than 100 daily titles with national or local coverage.
Press: English-language national dailies include Korea Daily News (website: www.kdaily.com), The Korea Herald (website: www.koreaherald.co.kr) and The Korea Times (http://times.hankooki.com). Other newspapers include Hankook Ilbo (website: www.hankooki.com), Hangyore Sinmun (website: www.hani.co.kr) and Munhwa Ilbo (website: www.munhwa.com).
TV: Public operator Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) operates two networks. Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and Education Broadcasting System (EBS) are public. Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) and Inchon-based Inchon Television (iTV) are private. SkyLife is a digital satellite TV operator.
Radio: Public operator Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) operates six networks. Public operator Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation operates MBC Radio and music-based MBC FM. Seoul Broadcasting System operates SBS-FM. Buddhist Broadcasting System (BBS) is a Buddhist network and Far East Broadcasting Corporation (FEBC) also has religious content. American Forces Network Korea (AFN Korea) is a station aimed at US military personnel.

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