- We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in the ROK. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
- There have been a number of confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the Republic of Korea. Screening is in place at airports for arriving and departing passengers. Australians planning to visit or transit ROK by air from MERS-CoV affected countries should be aware that individuals who display symptoms of MERS-CoV such as fever or elevated temperature, will be subject to further testing by ROK health authorities. See our Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) travel bulletin and the Health section.
- Relations between the ROK and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) remain tense. The DPRK conducted an underground nuclear test in February 2013 and conducts regular military drills throughout the year. The DPRK completed a series of missile launches through 2014 as part of these regular military drills. Further provocations by the DPRK or reactions by neighbouring countries, including the ROK, cannot be ruled out. Australians in the ROK should monitor developments closely due to the risk that tensions on the Korean Peninsula could escalate with little warning.
- We continue to advise against all travel to the Northern Limit Line Islands, near a disputed sea border, in the ROK.
- You should avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent.
- Australians in the ROK should see the advice on preparing for emergencies produced by the Australian Embassy in Seoul.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
- organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
- register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
- subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued
- follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the ROK for the most up to date information.
Foreign nationals are finger-printed on arrival in the ROK.
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
Civil unrest/political tension
Relations between the ROK and the DPRK remain tense. The DPRK conducted an underground nuclear test in February 2013. The DPRK has left open the possibility of conducting further tests in the future. Like ROK and US forces, the DPRK conducts regular military drills throughout the year. The DPRK undertakes belligerent actions, or ‘provocations’, from time to time. From February to August 2014, the DPRK launched over 100 rockets into the sea from its East coast. Further provocations by the DPRK or reactions by neighbouring countries, including the ROK, cannot be ruled out. Australians in the ROK should monitor developments closely and follow the instructions of local authorities because of the risk that tensions on the Korean Peninsula could escalate with little warning. You should also see the advice on preparing for emergencies produced by the Australian Embassy in Seoul.
Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the Korean Peninsula has been divided by a demilitarised zone separating the DPRK in the north and the ROK in the south. While peace is maintained under an armistice agreement, the two Koreas are still technically at war. Relations between the two countries continue to be tense and low-level military clashes have sometimes occurred.
We continue to advise against all travel to Yeonpyeong Island and other islands near the Northern Limit Line. In November 2010, the ROK and the DPRK exchanged artillery fire with some shells landing on the ROK island of Yeonpyeong, near a disputed sea border. Two civilians and two soldiers were killed and several others injured.
In May 2010, a multinational ROK-led investigation concluded that the sinking of the ROK Navy corvette, Cheonan, in March 2010, was a result of a North Korean (DPRK) attack.
Prior to the most recent underground nuclear test in February 2013, the DPRK conducted tests in October 2006 and May 2009. Negotiations between the DPRK, ROK, United States, China, Japan and Russia (the Six-Party Talks) in an effort to resolve international concerns about its nuclear program have stalled.
You should avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent. Monitor the local media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
While the crime rate in the ROK is low, petty crime exists, particularly in major cities such as Seoul and Busan. There have also been instances of sexual assault and other violent crimes against foreign tourists and expatriates. You should exercise care when walking alone at night, particularly in bar and nightclub areas. We recommend that you avoid using unofficial taxis.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.
Money and valuables
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
The ROK has one of the highest rates of traffic deaths for a developed country, particularly for pedestrians. Speeding, running red lights and other risky behaviour is common, particularly by buses, taxis and motorcyclists. Taxis often do not have seat belts, particularly in the back seats. Pedestrians should not expect traffic to stop at pedestrian crossings: check carefully before stepping onto the road. Pedestrians should also look out for motorcyclists who often travel on footpaths and pedestrian crossings. For further advice, see our road travel page.
Korean authorities are focused on reducing the road toll. There is a strong presumption that car drivers are at fault in accidents involving injury to pedestrians. Criminal charges and heavy penalties are common in accidents involving injury.
The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in the ROK.
Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
You are subject to the local laws of the ROK, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
Serious crimes, such as murder, may attract the death penalty.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs can result in long jail sentences, heavy fines and deportation.
Disputes over alleged misrepresentation of working and living conditions for Australians teaching English in the ROK occur frequently. If you are considering employment to teach English in the ROK, you may wish to seek professional legal advice before signing a contract.
The ROK Government sometimes prevents the departure of foreigners involved in commercial or legal disputes.
Australians have been fined, detained and deported for breaches of their visa conditions. These include working on a visa obtained by the applicant or an employment agent by submitting false documentation to Korean immigration authorities. This also includes working in any capacity (either paid or voluntary) other than as specified in the visa. If you are employed, including teaching English, without a valid or correct visa, there is little or no entitlement to legal recourse under Korean law. Advice on working visas should be obtained from an Embassy or Consulate of the ROK before arrival in-country. You should be aware that it is difficult to change visa conditions after arriving in the ROK.
Photography of and around military zones, military assets and military personnel and official buildings is illegal.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
Information for dual nationals
The ROK does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of Australian officials to provide consular assistance to Australian-ROK dual nationals who have been arrested or detained.
If you were born in the ROK or otherwise have held Korean citizenship, you will retain Korean citizenship unless and until you formally renounce it and remove your name from the Korean family register.
Males who are ROK citizens, including dual nationals, are subject to compulsory military service. A male whose name appears on the Korean family register may be liable for military service even when travelling on an Australian passport. Males may not be allowed to renounce their Korean nationality or leave the country until they have fulfilled military service obligations or received a special exemption from military service. Australian/ROK dual nationals should seek advice from the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the ROK well in advance of travel.
Our Dual nationals page provides further information.
MERS-COV cases: There have been a number of confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the Republic of Korea. Screening is in place at airports for arriving and departing passengers. Australians planning to visit or transit ROK by air from MERS-CoV affected countries should be aware that individuals who display symptoms of MERS-CoV such as fever or elevated temperature, will be subject to further testing by ROK health authorities. See our Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) travel bulletin.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.
The standard of medical facilities in the ROK is generally good. However, treatment can be expensive and few staff speak English. Hospitals usually require an up-front deposit and/or confirmation of insurance prior to commencing treatment.
Malaria is a risk in the demilitarised zone and in rural areas in the northern parts of Gyonggi and Gangwon provinces near the border with North Korea. The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis also occurs. You should consult your doctor or travel clinic about prophylaxis against malaria and take measures to avoid mosquito bites, including using insect repellent.
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, typhoid, and hepatitis) occur sporadically. We recommend that you avoid raw and undercooked food. In rural areas, it is recommended that all drinking water be boiled or that you drink bottled water, and that you avoid ice cubes. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is common in the Republic of Korea (ROK) with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. In Asia, outbreaks of HFMD usually start in March/April and peak in May but can continue until August to October each year. It mostly affects children under the age of 10 years but adult cases (particularly young adults) are not unusual. The illness is characterised by fever as well as blisters and rashes on the hands, feet and buttocks. HFMD is spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges and faeces of infected people. Normal hygiene precautions should be taken including careful and frequent hand washing.
From March to May, yellow dust pollution, which is carried by strong winds from Mongolia and China, can cause eye, nose, mouth and throat irritations and exacerbate respiratory and cardio-vascular problems.
Where to get help
Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
For criminal issues, contact the local police on 112. The national emergency number is 112 for police and 119 for ambulance and fire services. You should also obtain a police report when reporting a crime.
The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:
Australian Embassy, Seoul
19th Floor, Kyobo Building
1, Jongro 1-ga
Seoul 110-714, Republic of Korea
Telephone: 82-2 2003 0100
Facsimile: 82-2 2003 0196
Australian Consulate, Busan
Room 802 Samwhan Officetel
830-295, Bumil 2-dong
Busan 601-709, Republic of Korea
Telephone: 82-51 647 1762
Facsimile: 82-51 647 1764
If you are travelling to the ROK, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
The monsoon season on the Korean Peninsula is from late June to late August. Typhoons may occur between August and September. Flooding and mudslides may interrupt transportation and other essential services.
The direction and strength of typhoons can change with little warning. You can check the latest typhoon information from the Korean Meteorological Administration, and World Meteorological Organisation Severe Weather Information Centre.
In the event of an approaching typhoon, you should identify your local shelter. Travellers should also follow the instructions of local authorities, monitor media and weather reports, and check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.
Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The typhoon could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe typhoon may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo ID, etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our severe weather page.
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.
Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
For other useful information to assist travelling or doing business in this country, see: