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Country Reports

South Korea Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

South Korea (population 51 million) is a highly developed country with very good travel conditions similar to those in Europe or North America, despite sharing a border with one of the world's most unpredictable nations (North Korea). However, this semblance of peace is often disrupted by major domestic events - e.g. a political crisis leading to the impeachment of conservative President Park Geun-hye in March 2017 - or geopolitical threats fueled by North Korea's regular nuclear or ballistic missile tests.

South Korea - in a domestic post-crisis situation following the recent election of President Moon Jae-in who replaced President Park - faces increased external tensions from the provocative attitude of the dictatorial North Korean regime.

POLITICS

In December 2016, the Korean parliament voted to impeach then-President Park, who had been in power since 2014. Parliament passed the impeachment motion following a high-profile corruption and influence-peddling scandal that threw South Korean politics into disarray. The Constitutional Court unanimously ruled in support of the parliament's decision, forcing Park out of office in March 2017. Park is currently being held in prison as her trial proceeds; she is accused of extortion, bribery, and leaking government secrets. The scandals led to massive peaceful protests that brought millions of peoples to the streets of Seoul for several consecutive weeks in November and December 2016.

Presidential elections were held on May 9, 2017, following Park's removal from office. Liberal candidate Moon Jae-in won the vote by a landslide, as predicted, after consistently leading in the polls for four months. The new president vowed to clean up Korean politics, eliminate corrupt ties between government and business, reduce the influence of big business in politics, strengthen the strategic alliance with Washington, and seek a more flexible approach to dealing with North Korea's nuclear program through dialogue.

A few days after the election, North Korea carried out a ballistic missile test, an action prohibited by the United Nations Security Council. This escalation does not bode well for a resumption of dialogue between Seoul and Pyongyang.

SECURITY

Generally speaking, South Korea has one of the lowest crime rates among industrialized countries.  

However, the threat of a domestic terrorist attack remains a concern. An attack took place in the Daegu metro system (southeast) in 2003, leaving nearly 200 dead.

NATURAL RISKS

Monsoon season (July-September) brings regular flooding and typhoons; the southern regions are particularly vulnerable. Typhoon Maemi killed 100 people in September 2003. Typhoon Kompasu, the strongest storm to hit the region in 15 years, struck South Korea in early September 2010, leaving three dead and significant material damage in its wake. In October 2016, Typhoon Chaba struck the cities of Busan and Ulsan, resulting in dozens of casualties.

In the event of flooding, travelers are advised to refrain from driving in affected regions, to avoid underground areas (basements, subways), and visiting flood-prone and coastal zones (either on foot or by car).

It should also be noted that air pollution levels usually reach their peak in July and August.

HEALTH

Health conditions are generally very good throughout the country, and medical and hospital infrastructure is well-developed.

These capacities were tested in May-June 2015 by an outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The emergence of MERS - related to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - was responsible for 36 deaths and the placement of some 17,000 people under quarantine.

Climate

Spring and fall are sunny and dry. Summer, monsoon season, is hot (30°C to 35°C) and very rainy. Winter, which begins in late November and lasts until early March, can be harsh (with temperatures falling to -10°C).

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +82 Police: 112 Fire Dept.: 119 Ambulance: 119

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

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