Monday, March 11, 2013

Is It Safe to be in Korea NOW?

Dear Korean,

I'm supposed to go on a trip to South Korea next June with my boyfriend but due to the recent events, I'm quite concerned about the situation. I know this is a bit self-centered but I could use some advice or suggestions. I read the 2009 post and I wondered if you still believe South Korea is a safe place to stay for a couple of days ?


It is true that North Korea's threats are at a higher level than ever before. They declared that the Armistice Treaty (which stopped Korean War) to be void, cut off the hotline through Panmunjeom, and announced that "the time for the final showdown has come." So it might make sense to go over this question again: is it safe to be in Korea, or visit Korea in the near future?

Short answer: yes. 

The situation did not change since the Korean wrote the post about North Korean threat in 2009: the only scenario in which visiting Korea would be dangerous is in the case of a full-scale war. And if a full-scale war happens, it is an absolute certainty that North Korea will be annihilated and the Kim dynasty will end. Thus, a full-scale war is extremely unlikely to happen, and that low likelihood does not change regardless of what North Korea says. Because South Koreans--the people who would be the most directly impacted by another Korean War--realize this, their response has mostly a yawn. In the past weekend, even as North Korea blustered about a nuclear war, South Koreans enjoyed the warm weather outdoors. A hawkish, conservative Korean newspaper ran an op-ed chiding South Koreans for doing so, and was met with a round of boos in Korea's Internet.

In fact, South Korean government is so not worried about the North Korean threat that it currently has no plans to withdraw more than 700 South Koreans working in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex in North Korea. Think about that for a little:  the threat of a war is so insignificant that South Korea is leaving hundreds of South Korean civilians in the middle of North Korea. So why should you, a foreign visitor, worry about visiting Seoul for a few days? The worst that North Korea could realistically do is to cause a naval skirmish, or attack the small and sparsely-populated outlying islands in the Yellow Sea. In either scenario, an international tourist is far removed from the action. In terms of percentages, it would be much more rational to worry about death in Korea by a lightning strike than by a North Korean attack.

If you wish to be extra careful (or make your parents worry less,) you can register yourself with the American embassy in Seoul, which has an evacuation plan ready for all American civilians of which it is aware in case of an emergency. But again, unless there is a full-scale war (which would be impossible to miss,) feel free to visit Korea, and don't worry so much.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. Thank you for this, I'm traveling to (South) Korea next year as a high school exchange student and I've been getting a lot of questions like this from my family.

  2. I was just going to ask this because I am planning to go as well, my dad has been holding off from booking airline ticket. I don't know how to convince him and I hope this post will help.

    I've been a Kpop fan long enough not to worry (I watch Korean news) but debating with my dad is not easy. Oh especially so, with my own country has trouble with neighbour.

  3. Maybe this is a dumb question - but - does this mean we can no longer visit the DMZ?

  4. I live in Seoul. The only ones who are in a huff about North Korea seem to be the American reporters who have nothing else to report about. For example today US newspapers report: "The body that controls Pyongyang's military complained Wednesday about the "venomous swish" of [President Park Geun-Hye's] skirt".

    The 2 Koreas have been at "war" for 60 years. Nothing has changed, South Korea's still cross the border and work in a collaborative factory in the North, and no one cares in Korea. So yes, you can go to the DMZ and go shopping in South Korea just fine.

  5. Thank you for this :) I was supposed to go to Seoul this summer but as my parents are convinced I'd be kidnapped and put in a prison camp they aren't letting me go.... args well maybe I could show them this and go next summer ... I swear they are quite ridiculous

  6. As a korean, visiting korea is safe more.than enough. I am leaving in bundang, near seoul, and.i ve never seen any violence here. Well, crime exits every where but it is very less in korea. Even we people think that forigners are dangerous. I ve been many place in the world like Europe,middle east asia, east south asia and oseania. In addition, I was robbed in italy and bangkok. But you will see that safe and.koreans are very kind

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