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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

Overview

General COVID-19 Travel Advisory in Operation:

Avoid non-essential travel until further notice:

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises against all non-essential travel overseas until further notice. This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. It also includes all travel by cruise ship.

If you are currently travelling outside of Ireland:

Flight restrictions and route cancellations are happening on a daily basis worldwide and there is no guarantee that air routes will continue to operate. For this reason, where commercial flights are still an option, we recommend that people who wish to do so make arrangements to return to Ireland as soon as possible.

We are working with airlines to show maximum flexibility to those passengers who need to change their existing flight arrangements. Where commercial flights are no longer available, we are working side-by-side with our international partners to identify alternative options where possible.

It may not be feasible or possible for everyone who wants to travel back to Ireland to do so in the short term. We ask Irish citizens remaining abroad to make decisions that safeguard their health and well-being and that they follow local public health and safety requirements.  We ask that they remain in close contact with family, friends and their local Irish Embassy or Consulate. 

We know that this is a stressful situation for citizens and our embassy network is working around the clock to provide people with all the information and assistance that we can, bearing in mind the situation is unfolding across multiple countries and is not one under our control. 

What to do on entering Ireland from abroad:

The Irish Health Authorities require anyone coming into Ireland, apart from Northern Ireland, to restrict their movements on arrival for 14 days. Check the Irish Health Service COVID-19 Advice Page for full information on these requirements. This includes Irish residents. Exemptions are in place for providers of essential supply chain services such as hauliers, pilots and maritime staff.

Where to go for more information:

We continue to make updates to our online travel advice for over 200 countries and recommend that you download our TravelWise App and follow us on Twitter. If abroad you should register with your local Irish Embassy or Consulate and regularly check their website and especially their Twitter accounts for details of any local public health measures and travel restrictions.

Security status

Avoid non-essential travel.

Latest Travel Alert

COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus

There is an ongoing outbreak of Coronavirus / COVID-19 in Korea where there are several thousand cases.

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.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade strongly advises against any non–essential travel to the region until further notice.

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

It is important to be aware that more than a hundred countries or locations have placed entry restrictions and/or mandatory quarantine requirements on travellers from Korea.  You are strongly advised to check the situation anywhere 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.

The Korean government has introduced new entry procedure measures for all people travelling from Europe (27 EU Member States + UK + Non-Schengen European countries) into Korea, effective from 23.59hrs on Saturday 21 March. All such travellers will be tested, and subject to results, will either be hospitalised, placed in self-isolation or required to report on symptoms for 14 days after arrival through a mobile application. As a result of these measures, you should expect delays on arrival in Korea.

The Korean Government announced on 2nd February that all foreigners who had visited Hubei province in the previous two weeks could not enter Korea, effective from 12 am Tuesday 4th February. Any travellers from China can expect increased queues and potential quarantine procedures at airports in in Korea.

The Governments of Korea and Japan have also announced additional measures in respect of travel between the two countries.  Travellers to Korea from Japan can expect more intensive screening and temperature checks on arrival.

There is a particularly high concentration of cases of COVID-19 in the south-eastern cities of Daegu, Cheongdo and Gyeongsan which has prompted the Korean authorities to designate them as “special care zones” to prevent further risk of exposure. Anyone resident in either location should pay particular attention to local guidance and monitor local media for updates. For anyone contemplating travel to Daegu, Cheongdo or Gyeongsan, we would advise against all but essential travel. If you return to Ireland from Daegu, Cheongdo or Gyeongsan, you will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. Please see HSE advice here

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Please be wary of these symptoms and seek immediate medical attention should such symptoms occur.

HSE medical advice to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is below.
Do:
• wash your hands properly and regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
• cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
• put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands
Don’t:
• touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

The situation is developing quickly and we would advise that you monitor official advice and local English language media sources.
Up to date English language press releases containing official advice are released twice a day 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 Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters on COVID-19, twice a day at 11am and 2pm (Korean time), with simultaneous interpretation into English provided.

For those who have returned to Ireland from Korea, Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team issued the following advice on 25th February in relation to Korea and a number of other affected countries:
• Anyone who has been to Korea in the last 14 days AND is experiencing symptoms should self-isolate and call their GP;
• Anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days AND is experiencing symptoms should immediately self-isolate and call their GP;
• Anyone who has been to an affected region (in the last 14 days, and are well, should visit www.HSE.ie for advice
For more information on the coronavirus outbreak, please follow the links below.

World Health Organisation

ECDC

HPSC

Latest Travel Alert

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.

Large demonstrations regularly take place in central Seoul, particularly around Seoul Plaza and Gwanghwamun. They are mostly peaceful, but it is advisable to monitor local media, follow the advice of local authorities and exercise caution in crowded areas.

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.

Emergency Assistance

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.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

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 and Trade 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