The Korean peninsula has been in the news regularly over the last year and as athletes and visitors from all over the world gather in Pyeongchang, so the number of headlines has increased. If you are one of those lucky visitors heading to South Korea, hopefully you have a smooth journey and you are all set on your travel prep. But, in case you skipped your emergency planning, we have put together some advice on things you can do to help yourself should something bad occur.

For most travellers, emergency planning is the thing you do in brief moments of concern or at two in the morning when you cannot sleep. If this plane has mechanical issues, I put my oxygen mask on first and then I help others, and my nearest exit is behind me. If there is an earthquake, I should hide under the desk. If there is a tsunami, the sirens will warn me and I follow evacuation routes. This brief thought process helps slay those mounting fears, and then we put it aside. What follows is a guide to things you can actually do, that will save time and make a difference in an emergency.

Buy appropriate travel insurance

One of the most important aspects of travel prep is to buy an appropriate travel insurance policy. One size does not fit all. Do not rely on travel insurance you get through your credit card or when you booked your flight. It seems boring and an added expense, but things go wrong all the time and travel insurance is there as a safety net. In the worst case scenario, your loved ones could be facing a bill of tens of thousands of pounds to bring your body home.

You might find this Travel Insurance 101 guide useful – it addresses lots of questions and contains useful information.

Things to remember
  • When buying travel insurance, make sure you read the small print. It is not sexy, but you should know if you will be covered for anything that happens if you’re taking part in winter sports, riding a moped or going jetskiing. If there is a decent chance you will be doing these things, look for insurance that covers you.
  • If you have a pre-existing condition, talk to an insurance broker. These advisers should be able to help find insurance that will cover you, even if companies you find online refuse.
  • Be honest. If you have health issues, do not gloss over them – this could lead to claims being denied in the future.

Take key info with you

Having bought your insurance, make sure you take the key information with you and you have read it through. Some insurers require you to contact them before seeking medical treatment. Other will have different numbers to call. In order to make a successful claim, you need to be aware of the procedures.

Make sure you have access to relevant contact details and policy numbers. Store them in multiple places – downloaded on your phone or tablet, printed off and stashed in your carry on and your luggage.

What info to take
  • Travel insurance – contact numbers and policy details.
  • Passport – scan your passport and send a copy to a secure email account. More info here.
  • Embassy contact details – have the street address and phone number of the local consular office stored in your phone and keep a hard copy accessible too.
  • Contact details for the emergency services – the British Embassy in Seoul has produced this list of contact information for the Winter Olympics and this additional information sheet.
  • Address and phone number for your accommodation.

In Case of Emergency – know the risks

When planning your trip, spend a little time researching the most likely risks you will face. It is good to know if the area is vulnerable to natural disasters and, if you are anything like me, you might want to look up what alert systems are in place and how they work. Check the recent news to see if there is a history of crime or political unrest. Make sure you read the travel advisories for the country as well, as this will give you an idea of what your government considers the risks to be.

In South Korea risks include (but are not limited to) earthquakes, fire, crime, health issues including food poisoning, road traffic accidents, political unrest, terrorism, and conflict with North Korea. 

Links to travel advice on visiting South Korea from the following governments –

Please note that the travel advice varies – it is worth reading as many as you have time for. You can register your details with your embassy, so they know how to contact you in case of an emergency. We strongly urge you to consider doing so.

South Korea’s Emergency App

South Korean authorities have a smartphone app with emergency information that has been updated for the Winter Olympics. It includes information on shelters, medical centres, fire stations, police stations as well as emergency contact information and first aid advice.

While this may be useful, the app does not have great reviews. It might be a useful additional source of information, but we would caution against relying on this in an emergency.

Road traffic accidents

One of the biggest risks travellers face around the world is a road traffic accident. The Canadian Government warns that in South Korea –

The rate of fatal road accidents is very high. Check carefully before crossing the road as vehicles may not stop at pedestrian crossings. Use underground or above-ground pedestrian crossings where available. Speeding, running red lights and other risky behaviour is common, particularly by buses, taxis and motorcyclists. Motorcycles are sometimes driven on sidewalks. Automobile drivers are presumed to be at fault in accidents involving motorcycles or pedestrians. Criminal charges and heavy penalties are common when accidents result in injury.

In Case of Emergency – make a plan

Having identified the risks, gathered all the contact info and shared key information with your emergency contact, you should have everything you need for your emergency plan. This does not need to be complicated – if X occurs, I do Y.

For each of these risks, work out what your response will be – earthquakes, fire, crime, health issues including food poisoning, road traffic accidents, political unrest, terrorism, and conflict with North Korea. 

If it is relevant, share your plan with your emergency contact. For example, in case of an earthquake, work out how you will contact them and what you will want them to do next – contact your family and friends (and how?), start an insurance claim, liaise with consular services, etc.

…And then relax and enjoy yourself!

While all this prep and planning can feel a little morbid and dark at times, it is just another insurance policy. You are laying the groundwork for your future self to have a smooth and stress-free trip.

With all this in place, you can relax and enjoy your trip, and hopefully watch your team rack up those medals!

Further South Korea travel advice

Like what you read? Sign up here for our free Daily Updates.

We also send out a Weekly K+R Update, bundling together all the kidnap, ransom and extortion news of the week in one easy to read newsletter. (Same form – options at the end.)

 Other ways to stay up to date:

Follow and subscribe!

Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. You can also subscribe to our free newsletters - the Daily Updates and the Weekly K+R Update.