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Korea, Republic of (South Korea)

If you’re travelling to the Republic of Korea (South Korea), our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Security Status

  • Normal precautions
  • High degree of caution
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Do not travel
  • Overview
  • Safety and Security
  • Local Laws and Customs
  • Moving to South Korea
  • Additional Information
  • Embassy Contact

Overview

General COVID-19 Travel Advisory in Operation

For the latest update please read the General COVID-19 Travel Advisory >

Overview

Security status

High degree of caution

Security Status Last Updated: 30 July 2021

Latest Travel Alert

Covid-19 is still a threat, but with continued public health measures, vaccination and testing, it will be possible to travel internationally. You will need to plan your travel carefully and there are risks.

There is a continuing incidence of COVID-19 Korea, prompting a range of official measures within the country and for those travelling to Korea. 

Emergency responses to the Covid-19 crisis in many countries have included restrictions of flights to/from Europe; imposition of new mandatory quarantine arrangements and new restrictions affecting the admission of Irish people travelling to and within the Asia Pacific region.

For more information, please see the latest update on our webpage.

If you are travelling from Korea, you are strongly advised to check the requirements of the destination that you are intending to travel to or transit through.  More generally, you may also find it useful to check the travel advice for any country that you plan to visit, which can be found here.

All passengers arriving in Korea must fill in a health declaration form and undergo a COVID-19 test. The test is administered at one of a number of official test centres to which incoming passengers are brought by airport bus. 

If arriving passengers have a permanent address in Korea they must then self-isolate at that address for 14 days. The terms of this quarantine are very strictly enforced and they will be required to download a location-tracing app and to report their symptoms daily. Any passengers who do not have a permanent residence in Korea will be required to self-isolate at a government quarantine facility for 14 days, at a cost of 2.1 million KRW (approximately €1,500).

The Korean authorities indicated in May 2021 that travellers who have been vaccinated in Korea will be exempt from quarantine requirements but will be asked to self-quarantine until the local health authorities have determined that the exemption requirements have been met.  In any event, the requirement to produce, on arrival in Korea, a negative PCR test conducted within the past 72 hours remains and the traveller must carry their certificate of vaccination if they do not intend to quarantine. Another PCR test will be carried out upon arrival in Korea and travellers will then need to take a further test on the 6th or 7th day after entry. Travellers should not leave self-quarantine until they receive confirmation from their local public health centre that exemption requirements have been met. As the quarantine exemption for travellers vaccinated in Korea excludes certain countries, travellers should familiarise themselves with the specific requirements for the countries which they are departing from or transiting through.

Travellers who have been vaccinated outside Korea should contact their nearest Korean Embassy for clarification on whether they will be exempted.

Since January 2021, all foreigners arriving in Korea will have to carry a negative PCR test declaration. The PCR test must be conducted no more than 72 hours prior to the passenger’s scheduled departure. Anyone without a negative test declaration will be denied entry to Korea.

These entry restrictions and mandatory quarantine do not apply to passengers who are transiting, including if they must change terminal, once they submit a health questionnaire, undergo a temperature check, and can show an onward ticket to their next destination. However, if the passenger passes through immigration to collect their luggage they will be subject to the 14-day quarantine requirement. If you are planning to transit through Korea you should ensure that your luggage is checked in to your final destination.  You should contact your airline if you have any other concerns.

All foreign residents in Korea (apart from A1, A2, A3 and F4 visa holders) have to apply for a re-entry permit through a local immigration office before leaving Korea if they wish to maintain their visa status. Leaving Korea without a re-entry permit will result in cancellation of alien registration. In this case, the foreign resident would have to obtain a new long-term visa to re-enter Korea. Further information about this requirement can be found here. If you intend to travel abroad and return to Korea, we recommend that you contact the Korean immigration authorities as soon as possible.  Advice is also available from the Immigration Contact Centre at Tel. 1345.

Up to date English language press releases containing official advice are released daily on the website of the Korean Centre for Disease Control, which can be found here. Press releases include a table of confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19, as well as other information on COVID-19 in the Republic of Korea.  Advice in English can be obtained within Korea by ringing Tel. 1339 ext. 4 for English.

The website of Arirang TV provides live streaming of regular press briefing by the Central Disease Control Headquarters on COVID-19, Monday to Friday at 2pm (Korean time), with simultaneous interpretation into English provided.

General Travel Advice

The tensions on the Korean Peninsula, caused by North Korean long-range rocket launches and nuclear test in 2017, have eased considerably, not least following the inter-Korean and US-North Korea Summits in 2018 and 2019.  However, visitors should continue to monitor the travel advice.

Irish citizens in Korea should download TravelWise, the Department's new free smartphone app, and set an alert for 'Korea, Republic of (South Korea)', to receive all of our significant security and other updates direct to your phone. You should also follow Irish Embassy Korea on Twitter. In the event of a crisis, we will issue travel advice from @IrishEmbKorea, based on updates issued by the authorities in Ireland and Korea.

We would strongly encourage all Irish citizens resident in Korea to register on our Citizen's Registration Portal so as to ensure that they can receive any communications being issued by the Embassy.

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, start by talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management. 

You can contact the emergency services in South Korea by dialling 112.

Travel to Ireland

Up to date information on travelling to Ireland can be found on gov.ie 

Information on Travel within Europe (EU/EEA) can also be found on Re-open EU.

 

Safety and Security

Safety and security

Political situation

The political situation in South Korea is stable. Political and student demonstrations occur from time to time which can disrupt traffic, and sometimes there are violent clashes. Demonstrations tend to occur in city centre areas, particularly on Gwanghwamun at weekends. Monitor local media, follow the advice of local authorities and exercise caution.

The tensions on the Korean Peninsula, caused by North Korean long-range rocket launches and nuclear test in 2017, have eased considerably, not least following the inter-Korean and US-North Korea Summits in 2018 and 2019.  However, visitors should continue to monitor the travel advice as the level of tension between North and South Korea can escalate at little notice. An armistice continues in effect between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The border between North and South Korea, the Demilitarised Zone or DMZ, is one of the most heavily-fortified borders in the world.  The situation at this stage does not merit any cautionary advice about travelling to South Korea, although travel in the waters near the Northern Limit Line is not advisable. Always keep yourself informed of what's going on around you by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser.

Terrorism

South Korea has not been a target for terrorism in recent years, although North Korea has been accused of terrorist acts in the past.

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in South Korea but you should take sensible precautions. 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place 
  • Leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafes, train and bus stations
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible

Reporting a crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in South Korea, report it to the local police immediately. You can contact us at the Irish Embassy or Consulate/Honorary Consul if you need help. Call 112 for police (an interpretation service is available during working hours).

Driving

The rules of the road in South Korea are broadly similar to those in Ireland.  However, unlike Ireland, driving is on the right side of the road. Excellent motorways link all major cities, but minor roads are often badly maintained. Road signs are usually written in both Korean and English.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your international driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Be aware of South Korea’s traffic laws, such as speed limits
  • Wear your seatbelts at all times
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

National exercises

The South Korean authorities normally hold nationwide civil emergency exercises on the 15th day of the month, eight times a year (not January, February, July or December). Sirens are sounded, transport stopped and some people are asked to take shelter in metro stations or basements. You should check local announcements for further exercises.

Local Laws and Customs

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Courtesy is highly valued in Korea, and there is a strong social hierarchy, with respect for the elderly. There are specific seats reserved for the elderly on the subway systems. Reserved behaviour in public is the norm.  Homosexual relationships are not illegal, but public displays of affection are not commonplace. LGBT groups are gaining visibility but any public gatherings are likely to be met with counter protests from conservative groups.

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms. 

Emergency assistance

Call 112 for police (an interpretation service is available during working hours) and 119 for ambulance and fire. The Korean National Police operates a Central Interpretation Centre where foreigners can report crimes (through 112).

Language

English is not widely spoken in South Korea so a phrase book can be very useful when you want to communicate essentials.

In general, taxi drivers do not speak English, though some companies offer in-car translation. It is best to have written directions (in Korean) and a map. 

Public transport

Some Korean taxi drivers are sometimes reluctant to pick up foreigners and this reluctance can be more evident at night or during inclement weather. Given often-heavy traffic conditions, you should get advice about travel times.  

The Seoul metro and bus network are excellent forms of transport: quick, cheap and extensive. Ticket machines operate in English as well as Korean.

Moving to South Korea

Moving to South Korea

If you are moving to South Korea or have recently moved to South Korea, it can take some time to adapt to your new surroundings. Please refer to following information and useful links which might help you adapting yourself to the new surroundings.

Teaching English in South Korea

The majority of Irish nationals working in Korea are teaching English in private language institutes, public schools or universities. For further advice regarding teaching English in Korea, see here.

1345 Immigration Contact Centre

Irish nationals seeking information about where/how to apply for or renew Korean working visas should contact the nearest Korean Embassy where they are currently residing, if they do not live in Korea. In the event they are already residing in Korea, they should contact a branch office of the Korean Immigration Service in their region, or contact the 1345 Immigration Contact Centre. Multilingual visa & immigration information services to expatriates in Korea are provided by the Korean e-Government for Foreigners.

Social Security Agreement between Ireland and Korea

On Thursday 1 January, 2009 an agreement between Ireland and the Republic of Korea came into effect. Its purpose is to enable persons who have paid social insurance in both countries, but have too few contributions in one country for a pension, to receive a pension on the basis of their combined periods of social insurance contributions.

It also allows a person to retain cover under their home country's legislation if they are sent to work temporarily for the same employer or a subsidiary company in the other country for a period of up to 5 years.

Please see the information leaflet for additional information. The relevant agency in Republic of Korea is the National Pension Service and in Ireland it is the Department of Social Protection.

Double Taxation Agreement between Ireland and RoK

Ireland and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) signed, in Dublin, on 18 July, 1990 a Convention for the avoidance of Double Taxation and the prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and Capital Gains.

The Convention or Double Taxation Agreement provides for the allocation of taxing rights between the two countries and for the granting of relief from double taxation with regard to items of income and capital gains which, under the laws of both countries, may be taxed in both.

If you have detailed questions then you should seek expert professional advice.

USEFUL LINKS

Irish Organisations and Societies

You may find it helpful to meet with other Irish citizens who are part of a local organisation or business network. There are a small number of Irish organisations and societies in South Korea:

Travel to Korea:

Study in Korea:

Work and Live in Korea:

Business and Economy in Korea:

Additional Information

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

If you’re unsure of the entry requirements for South Korea, including visa and other immigration information, ask your travel agent or contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of South Korea.

You can also check with them how long your passport must be valid for.

The Korean Immigration Service (KIS) has, since 2012, implemented the rule that all non-Korean nationals, with some limited exceptions, must provide biometric information on entering the Republic of Korea. You can find out more from the KIS.

Personal identification

You should carry personal ID with you at all times. We recommend that you fill in the personal identification and next-of-kin information in the back of your passport. It is advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay, you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.

Health

Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for South Korea.

Visiting a hospital

There are international clinics at the major hospitals and specialist medical and dental clinics where English is spoken. If you need to stay overnight, be aware that a friend or relative is expected to stay with the patient and attend to his/her non-medical needs (which do not fall to the nursing staff).

Money

Local currency is the ROK Won. Credit cards are not always accepted outside major cities. ATMs are widely available but may not always accept foreign cards. 

Mobile phone coverage

Check with your mobile phone network provider before travelling if your telephone will work in South Korea. Temporary mobiles are available at Incheon Airport for hire. 

Natural disasters and climate

Typhoons

Typhoon season extends from June to November in South Korea and the risk of tropical storms and typhoons is higher than normal throughout this period. If you’re travelling to South Korea, monitor local weather forecasts and know what to expect.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) examines and reinforces national disaster prevention systems to ensure that those systems remain safe, effective and reliable.

Rainy season

The summer rainy season lasts from the end of June to mid-July.

Embassy contact

Embassy Contact

If you require assistance in the case of an emergency while the Embassy is closed, you should call the Embassy at (822) 721-7200 where you will be given a separate number to call. This will put you in touch directly with an Embassy official.

If necessary, you can also make direct contact with the Consular Assistance Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin on +353 1 408 2000.

Embassy of Ireland
Leema Bldg. 13F
42, Jongro 1-gil
Jongro-gu
Seoul
Korea 110-755

Tel: +82 2 721 7200
Fax: +82 2 774 6458

Monday to Friday 09:00-12:30 and 13:30-17:00

Contact us