South Korea

From Halal Explorer

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South Korea (Korean: 한국, 韓國 Hanguk), officially the Republic of Korea (대한민국, 大韓民國 Daehan Minguk) is a country in East Asia|East Asia. South Korea occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea to the north, China across the sea to the west and Japan a short ferry ride to the southeast.

Contents

An Introduction to the regions of South Korea

South Korea is administratively divided into 9 provinces as listed below. The largest cities are separate entities from these provinces, but we include them in the most relevant province.

  Gyeonggi
Surrounding Seoul and covered in its urban sprawl, and the Panmunjeom
  Gangwon
Natural wonderland with the Seoraksan National Park, beaches and ski resorts.
  North Chungcheong
A landlocked province filled with mountains and national parks.
  South Chungcheong
Central western part of the nation. Flat area made up of Rice paddies. Point where main train lines and highways converge and known for its thermal spas (Muslim Friendly)).
  North Gyeongsang
Largest province and richest area for historical and cultural sites, such as Andong, Gyeongju and the islands of Ulleungdo.
  South Gyeongsang
Known for its gorgeous seaside cities, and beaches where most Koreans take their summer holidays.
  North Jeolla
Noted for great food.
  South Jeolla
Lots of beautiful small islands and landscape, fantastic food (especially seafood along the coast) and good for fishing.
  Jeju
South Korea's honeymoon island, created by a volcano. Great scenery with wild flowers and horseback riding.

Other Muslim Friendly Cities in South Korea

  • Seoul GPS: 37.566,126.966 (서울) — the dynamic 600-year-old capital of South Korea, a fusion of the ancient and modern
  • Busan GPS: 35.166,129.066 (부산, 釜山) — the second largest city and a major port city of Korea
  • Chuncheon GPS: 37.866,127.733 (춘천, 春川) — capital city of Gangwon province, surrounded by lakes and mountains and known for local dishes, dakgalbi and makguksu
  • Daegu GPS: 35.9,128.6 (대구, 大邱) — a cosmopolitan city, rich with ancient traditions and sights
  • Daejeon GPS: 36.351,127.385 (대전, 大田) — a large and dynamic metropolis located in Chungnam province
  • Gwangju GPS: 35.166,126.916 (광주, 光州) — the administrative and economic centre of the area and the largest city in the province
  • Gyeongju GPS: 35.85,129.22 (경주, 慶州) — the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom
  • Incheon GPS: 37.483,126.633 (인천, 仁川) — second busiest port in the nation, location of the nation's largest international airport
  • Jeonju GPS: 35.82,127.15 (전주, 全州) — once the spiritual capital of the Joseon Dynasty, now a leading center of the arts filled with museums, ancient buddhist temples, and historical monuments

Other Muslim Friendly Destinations in South Korea

  • Seoraksan National Park GPS: 38.125,128.416 (설악산국립공원) — spread out over four cities and counties and the nation's most renowned national park and mountain range
  • Andong GPS: 36.567,128.716 (안동시) — historically rich in Confucius traditions and home of living folk village
  • Ansan GPS: 37.316,126.833 (안산시) — a city in Gyeonggi province on the coast of the Yellow Sea
  • Panmunjeom GPS: 37.956,126.68 (판문점) — the only tourist site in the world where the Cold War is still reality
  • Boseong GPS: 34.766,127.083 (보성군) — rolling hills blanketed with green tea leaves where you can stroll along a wooded path and stop at a nearby spa to drink the home grown tea and take a seawater bath.
  • Yeosu GPS: 34.733,127.733 (여수시) — one of the nation's most picturesque port cities especially at night. Famous for its seafood and beaches, you can visit some of the islands in Hallyeo Ocean Park with cruise or watch sunset from its fabulous Dolsan Bridge or romantic cafes near marinas.
  • Jindo GPS: 34.483,126.261 (진도) — commonly associated with the dog native to that area and the Jindo, every year people flock to the area to witness the parting of the sea and participate with the accompanying festivities
  • Ulleungdo GPS: 37.5,130.9 (울릉도) — scenic remote island off the east coast of peninsula
  • Pyeongchang (평창군) — the host city of the Wikivoyage:Past_events/Pyeongchang_2018|2018 Winter Olympics.

South Korea Halal Travel Guide

Known as the "Land of the Morning Calm", Korea has for a long time served as a cultural bridge between its neighbors, China and Japan. South Korea has emerged from the shadows of its turbulent past and cemented its place as one of the world's major economic powers. Since the turn of the 21st century, South Korean culture has become vastly popular all over East Asia, and this has made it a very popular tourist destination.

History of South Korea

Early history and founding of a nation

Korea-Daegu-Palgongsan-01

Archeological finds of prehistoric toolmaking on the Korean Peninsula date back to 70,000 BC, and the first pottery is found around 8000 BC. Comb-pattern pottery culture peaked around 3500–2000 BC.

Legend has it that Korea began with the founding of Gojoseon (고조선, 古朝鮮, also called Ancient Chosun) by the legendary Dangun in 2333 BC. Archeological and contemporaneous written records of Gojoseon as a kingdom date back to around 7th–4th century BC. Gojoseon was eventually defeated by the Chinese Han Dynasty and its territories were governed as four commanderies. The political chaos following the fall of the Han Dynasty in China allowed native tribes to regain control of Korea and led to the emergence of the Three Kingdoms of Korea (삼국시대, 三國時代), namely Goguryeo (고구려, 高句麗), Silla (신라, 新羅) and Baekje (백제, 百濟). Despite repeated attempts by China, namely the Sui Dynasty and later the Tang Dynasty, to conquer the Korean Peninsula, northern-based Goguryeo managed to repel them. Eventually, Goguryeo fell to a Silla-Tang alliance, which had earlier defeated Baekje, and unified Korea under the Silla Dynasty. A later invasion by the Tang was repelled by Silla forces, thus maintaining Korea's independence. The remnants of Goguryeo would go on to found another kingdom known as Balhae (발해, 渤海) in what is now Northeast China, which would last until 926 AD when it was conquered by the Khitans.

Unified Silla was replaced by the Goryeo Dynasty (고려, 高麗, also called Koryo), from which the modern name "Korea" derives. One highlight of the Goryeo dynasty was that in 1234 the world's first metal movable type was invented by a Korean named Choe Yun-ui (200 years before Gutenberg's printing press). Goryeo was replaced by the Joseon Dynasty (조선, 朝鮮, also called Chosun), after a coup by one of its generals. The Joseon dynasty ruled Korea from 1392 to 1910, being one of the longest actively ruling dynasties in world history. It was during the early part of the Joseon dynasty that Korean technological inventions such as the world's first water clock, ironclad ship, and other innovations took place. During the rule of King Sejong the Great and the world's first rain gauge was invented and the Korean alphabet known as hangul was created.

Japanese occupation and division

JSA ConferenceRooms

Korea was invaded by the Japanese led by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the late 16th century, who was eventually defeated by an alliance between the Joseon dynasty and China's Ming dynasty. This defeat and the untimely death of Hideyoshi forced the Japanese to pull out of Korea.

Later, Korea's status as an independent kingdom under the Chinese sphere of cultural influence (사대 sadae) ended in 1895 after China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War and the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Under the terms of the treaty, China was to recognize the severing of the several centuries-old, nominal elder-younger brother relationship between China and Korea, bringing Japan the window of opportunity to force Korea into its own growing sphere of influence. Although the elder-younger brother relationship between China and Joseon was a voluntary diplomatic formality assumed by Joseon's rulers in order to receive the benefits of advanced Chinese culture and trade, it was a symbolic victory for Japan to achieve the breakage of this link. It put Japan in position to take possession of Korea without fear of Chinese intervention. In 1910, Imperial Japan annexed Korea, thus beginning a 35-year occupation of the nation. Despite numerous armed rebellions, assassinations and intellectual and cultural resistance, suppression and a cultural assimilation policy that included forcing Koreans to take Japanese names and forbidding them to speak the Korean language allowed Japan to maintain control of the peninsula.

After Imperial Japan's defeat in Pacific War|World War II, Soviet forces occupied the northern half of Korea while U.S. forces occupied the southern half. North and South Korea each declared independence as separate states in 1948. Kim Il-Sung established a communist regime with the support of the Soviet Union in the north, and Syngman Rhee established a capitalist regime with the support of the United States in the south. After antagonism from both sides, North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, starting the Korean War which destroyed much of the nation. U.S. and other U.N. forces intervened on South Korea's side, while the Soviet Union and China supported the North. An armistice was signed in 1953 splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone, after the war had reached a stalemate with no significant territorial gains made by either side. However, as no peace treaty has ever been signed and the two Koreas technically remain at war with each other to this day.

Republic of Korea

Despite initially being economically outperformed by its northern rival, South Korea eventually emerged from the ashes of the Korean War and achieved rapid economic growth starting in the 1960s under the iron-fisted rule of President Park Chung-hee. As one of the East Asian Tigers and the South Korean economy's industrialization and modernization efforts gained traction in the 1980s and 1990s, and per capita income rose to 20 times that of North Korea. In 1996, South Korea joined the OECD. Today, South Korea is an industrialized and developed economy with some of the world's leading high technology corporations such as Samsung and LG.

Demands for greater freedom of speech and human rights led to nationwide demonstrations that led to democratic elections in 1987, just prior to the South Korean capital of Seoul hosting the 1988 Summer Olympic Games.

South Korea is now a liberal democracy and an economic powerhouse. The peace process with the North is still underway at a glacial pace, with little sign that the status quo will change anytime soon. In 2012 the nation elected its first female president, Park Geun-hye, although she was dramatically ejected from power in 2017 after widespread demonstrations over alleged corruption that involved personal connections and Korea's largest corporations.

The cultural phenomenon known as the Korean Wave (한류 hallyu) has swept most of Asia and many other parts of the world as South Korean film, television, music, food and other culture aspects have become popular. In 2012 Psy's Korean language song "Gangnam Style" actually topped the charts in many GCC countries.

The People of South Korea

Namdaemun Buildings

South Korea is a very homogeneous country, with nearly all native residents identifying themselves as ethnically Korean and speaking the Korean language. However the demographics are changing, with immigrants having passed the one million mark for the first time in South Korean history. The largest resident minority are the Chinese, numbering around 440,000, although this number includes a large number of Chinese citizens of Korean ethnicity. There are also workers from Mongolia, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia and other parts of world. A community of 20,000 English teachers from anglophone nations are spread out throughout the nation. A long standing 30,000 American military personnel are stationed here. South Korea's large and growing economy has attracted people from all over the world and Seoul's status as a leading financial center has brought many financial workers from North America, Europe and Japan.

It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, but also has one of the world's lowest birthrates (1.21 children per woman). Dealing with this very low birthrate will be one of the major problems for this country in the 21st century. Confucian attitudes about the importance of a male heir have led to a strongly skewed sex ratio, with about 112 men for every 100 women, encouraging many Korean men in rural areas to seek wives from other countries such as China, Vietnam and the Philippines. About 85% of South Koreans live in urban areas.

Government and politics

South Korea is a full and relatively stable democracy, with executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government. Democracy began in 1948 but suffered frequent periods of military coups. The country has been a stable democracy since 1987 when the sixth republic was declared.

The president is the head of state, and is elected for one five-year term. The current president is Moon Jae-in, who was elected in 2017 following the dramatic impeachment of previous president Park Geun-hye. Party composition and naming changes frequently in South Korean politics, although conservative, liberal and progressive platforms are usually represented.

Although the military remain a powerful force in Korean politics (not surprising given that the nation is surrounded by Japan, China and North Korea), it is widely considered that another military coup is very unlikely.

Culture & Tradition of South Korea

Changdeokgung Bedchamber Detail

Having been in the cultural sphere of China for much of its history, substantial Chinese influences are evident in traditional Korean culture. Nevertheless, many fundamental differences remain and Korea has managed to retain a distinct cultural identity from its larger neighbor. Koreans are fiercely proud of their legacy and their resistance to outside domination.

During the Joseon dynasty, Korea's dominant philosophy was a strict form of Confucianism, perhaps even more strict than the Chinese original. People were separated into a rigid hierarchy, with the king at the apex, an elite of officials and warriors and a small group of nobility (양반 yangban) below him, a middle class of petty civil servants (중인 chungin) below them, and then a vast population of commoners (상민 sangmin) at the bottom. The educated were superior to the uneducated, women served men, and everybody stuck to a defined role or faced severe consequences. Korea adopted its own version of the imperial examination system invented by and used in China to select officials, creating somewhat of a premodern meritocracy for government like its Chinese counterpart, though unlike the Chinese version and the Korean version was largely restricted to the yangban and chungin classes. Buddhism was suppressed largely due to the widespread corruption and greed of monks and temples during the waning stages of the Goryeo dynasty. While the Joseon dynasty ceased to exist in 1910, its legacy lives on in Korean culture: education and hard work are valued above all else, and women still struggle for equal treatment.

Koreans believe that the things that set them the most apart from other Asian cultures are their cuisine and their language and their Hangul script. Outsiders will note their extreme modernity, tempered by a well-developed artistic and architectural joyfulness. Nothing goes undecorated if it can be helped, and they have a knack for stylish interior design. South Korea also has a vibrant film and TV industry, and the nation is one of only a few countries in the world in which local films have a greater market share than Hollywood films.

South Koreans strongly hold on to many ancient traditions which go back thousands of years, yet paradoxically they are often also obsessed with the latest technology. Consumer devices with amazing advanced technology are developed and produced by themselves and are often several years ahead of the rest of the world.

South Korea has a significant number of Christians (18% Protestants, 11% Roman Catholic) and Buddhists (23% practicing, 47% non practicing), and churches can be found in the towns and temples and monasteries on hills. Over a third of the nation professes to follow no particular organized religion, although most people (including Christians) are still strongly influenced by traditional Korean Buddhist and Confucian philosophies that have been seeped into the Korean cultural background. Islam and local religions also have a small number of followers in parts of the nation.

Public Holidays in South Korea

Korea's traditional holidays mostly follow the lunar calendar and therefore fall on different days each year from the perspective of the Western Gregorian calendar. The two biggest, Lunar New Year and Chuseok, are family holidays where everybody returns to their hometowns en masse and all forms of transport are absolutely packed. It is worth planning your itinerary around these dates, as well as realizing that your best eating options may be Noodles packets from a 7-Eleven! On the other holidays you will not notice too much difference, however all banks and government offices will be closed.

Coloured lanterns at the Lotus Lantern Festival - On Buddha's birthday temples are decorated by colored lanterns

  • New Year's Day (신정 Sinjeong) — January 1
  • Lunar New Year (설날 Seolnal, commonly called "Korean New Year" or 구정 Gujeong) — 1st day of 1st lunar month (January–February) — Families gather together, eat traditional foods, especially tteokguk (떡국), and perform an ancestral service. The public holiday lasts for 3 days, which includes the eve and second day. Many shops and restaurants close for the 3 days, so it is not an ideal time to visit.
  • Independence Movement Day (삼일절 or 3·1절 Samiljeol, lit. "3-1 Day") — March 1 — In commemoration of the March 1st resistance movement against the invading Japanese Imperial Army in 1919.
  • Children's Day (어린이날 Eorininal) — 5 May
  • Buddha's Birthday (부처님 오신 날 Bucheonnim Osin Nal or 사월 초파일 Sawol Chopail) — 8th day of the 4th lunar month (April–May)
  • Memorial Day (현충일 Hyeonchung-il) — June 6 — Commemorates Koreans who gave their lives to the nation.
  • Constitution Day (제헌절 Jeheonjeol) — July 17
  • Liberation Day (광복절 Gwangbokjeol) — August 15 — This day is actually the end of World War II with the official Japanese surrender to the Allied forces, which also meant Korea gaining independence after many decades of Japanese colonialism.
  • Chuseok (추석, often translated as "Korean Thanksgiving") — 15th day of 8th lunar month (September–October) — Koreans celebrate by eating traditional foods, notably a Rice cake called songpyeon (송편) and playing folk games. The public holiday lasts for 3 days and much like Lunar New Year, everything shuts down which makes visiting rather boring.
  • National Foundation Day (개천절 Gaecheonjeol) — October 3 — In celebration of the first formation of the nation of ancient Korea.
  • Hangul Day (한글날 Hangeulnal) — October 9 — Anniversary for the Korean alphabet
  • Christmas (크리스마스 Keuriseumaseu, 기독탄신일 Gidoktansinil, or 성탄절 Seongtanjeol) — December 25 — A significant holiday in South Korea, although it is mostly celebrated by young couples spending a romantic day together. Since a significant proportion (roughly 30%) of the nation is Christian and there is no shortage of celebration in the thousands of churches whilst everyone else takes a well deserved rest at home.

How is the Climate in South Korea

  • Spring is a great time of year to be in Korea. The temperatures are warm, but not hot and there's not too much rain either. However, spring is also the time when yellow dust storms blow over from China making the air horrible to breathe.
  • Summer starts with a dreary rainy season (장마철 jangma-cheol) in June and turns into a steambath in July-August, with extreme humidity and the temperature heading as high as 35 °C. Best avoided unless heading to the beaches.
  • Autumn, starting in September, is perhaps the best time to be in Korea. Temperatures and humidity become more tolerable, fair days are common and the justly renowned fall colors make their appearance.
  • Winter is a good time to go skiing or hot-spring hopping, and the Korean invention of ondol (온돌, floor heating) helps defrost any parts that froze outside. However, January and February can be bone-biting cold due to Siberian winds from the north. The south of the nation (including Busan and Jeju) are relatively mild compared to the north (Seoul]) during this season.

Electricity

Schuko plug and socket

South Korean households and hotels use the same dual round sockets for their electrical outlets as are found in most of Continental Europe. Some hotels may provide an adapter for you to use; ask for one at the reception desk.

South Korean electrical outlets accept appliances with a voltage rating of 220 V at 60 Hz. If your appliance has this rating that includes 220 V (Such as 100-240 V that most laptop chargers now accept), you will be able to use the appliance with only a plug adapter. If it falls below or above this rating, you will need to purchase a transformer or a voltage adapter before leaving your country.

Some very old buildings and very new hotels and apartments are dual wired and also have 110 V outlets (identifiable by the smaller dual flat sockets) in addition to the regular South Korean variety, built specifically to accommodate the Japanese and Americans.

Travel as a Muslim to South Korea

Visa policy of South Korea

Entry requirements

Jeju is an autonomous province with more relaxed entry conditions than the South Korean mainland, allowing visa-free entry for everybody except citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Cuba, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Palestine, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Yemen for up to 30 days. Subsequently leaving Jeju for the mainland will require you to have a visa for the rest of South Korea.

South Korean immigration no longer stamps passports. Instead, visitors are given an entry slip with their terms of entry, and their entry and exit is recorded electronically. South Korea is really good at keeping electronic track of everyone coming and going, so do not overstay your visa. Violations will at best likely result in you being banned from re-entering, and prosecution is a possibility.

Most Muslims staying longer than 90 days must register with the authorities within 90 days of entry and obtain an Alien Registration Card. Contact your local authorities for further information.

The Korean Immigration Service collects the biometric data (digital photo and fingerprints) of foreign visitors at ports of entry (international airports and seaports). Entry will be denied if any of these procedures is refused. Children under the age of 17 and foreign government and international organization officials and their accompanying immediate family members are exempt from this requirement.

Buy a Flight ticket to and from South Korea

Korean Air takes delivery of its first A380 at Toulouse Blagnac International Airport

South Korea has many international airports; however, only a few have scheduled services. South Korea has experienced an airport building frenzy over the last decade. Many large towns have dedicated functioning airports that handle only a handful of flights a week.

  • Incheon International Airport (IATA Code: ICN), about 1 hour west of Seoul, is the nation's largest airport and is served by many international airlines. There are many options for flying from locations throughout Asia, Europe and North America, and even routes to South America and Africa. It is also frequently rated as the best run and best designed airport in the world. There are direct inter-city buses that travel from just outside the international arrival hall to many locations throughout South Korea. The airport has a metro line (express AREX 43 min and all-stop subway 56 min) that goes directly to both Seoul–Gimpo airport and Seoul Station. (There is an airline check-in facility in Seoul Station.) Also and the KTX high-speed train service connects all over the nation within 3 hours.
  • Seoul's Gimpo Airport (IATA Code: GMP) offers domestic Flights to most South Korean cities, and the international "city shuttle" services from Tokyo–Haneda, Beijing, Shanghai–Hongqiao and Taipei–Songshan are quite convenient. It is more centrally located to Seoul than Incheon. You can connect from Incheon airport either by train or by limousine bus.
  • Busan's Gimhae International Airport (IATA Code: PUS) has international connections to Cambodia, China, Guam, Japan, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, Taiwan, Province of China, Thailand and Vietnam. Gimhae also has a few flights a day directly from Seoul–Incheon, which is much more convenient than changing to Seoul–Gimpo airport after a long international flight. The airport has a light rail line connecting Gimhae and West Busan.
  • Jeju (IATA Code: CJU) has Flights from many South Korean cities and international Flights to major Taiwanese, Japanese and Chinese cities. The Seoul–Gimpo—Jeju route is the busiest flight corridor in the world and the island is well served from other Korean airports.
  • Airports at Daegu, Muan (close to Gwangju and Mokpo), Cheongju (close to Daejeon and Sejong) also have an international flight.
  • Yangyang Airport is a very quiet airport in the remote northeast of the nation. Korea Express Air operates domestic flights between Gimhae International Airport|Busan, Seoul|Seoul–Gimpo, and Gwangju Airport. There are charter Flights to Chinese cities as well. This airport is also the closest airport to the Seoraksan National Park and parts of Northeast Gangwon-do.

Flag carrier Korean Air' (대한항공 Daehan Hanggong) and ' Asiana (아시아나 항공 Asiana Hanggong) are the principal full service carriers from South Korea that fly around the world. Low-cost airlines Air Busan, Jin Air, Jeju Air, Eastar Jet and T'way Air offer domestic Flights to Jeju and international flights across Asia.

Muslim Friendly Rail Holidays in South Korea

Korail and Japan Rail have an agreement where train trips between the countries can be completed via a ferry journey in the middle. Train travellers coming from or continuing on to Japan can purchase special through tickets giving discounts of 30% on KTX services and 9–30% on Busan–Fukuoka ferries as well as Japanese trains.

Travel to North Korea by train is not an option. There is a train track connecting the Korail network with North Korea and even an active Korailway station (albeit with no scheduled trains) on the border crossing. However there is no traffic and it will likely remain more of a political statement than a potential travel option for some time to come.

Book a Halal Cruise or Boat Tour in South Korea

The services listed here may change frequently, and English language websites may not be updated with the current information. Verify before travelling.

JR Beetle2 2009

Busan's International Passenger Terminal is the largest seaport in the nation and offers ferry rides mostly to and from Japan. The JR Beetle hydrofoil service from Busan to Fukuoka manages the trip in just under three hours with up to five connections a day. It also offers service to nearby Tsushima. All other links are slower overnight ferries, such as Pukwan Ferry Company]'s services to Shimonoseki. A Busan–Osaka ferry is operated by Panstar Line Co., Ltd.].

Incheon's International Ferry Terminal (연안부두 Yeonan Budu) has services to several cities in China, such as Weihai, Dandong, Qingdao and Tianjin. The largest operator is Jinchon, but Incheon Port has /eng/ full listings on their website]. The Chinese ports of Rizhao, Rongcheng and Lianyungang, all in Shandong province, can also be visited by ferry from Pyeongtaek.

There are also weekly departures from Sokcho (Gangwon-do) to Vladivostok from USD270 operated by Dong Chun Ferry, and from Donghae (Gangwon-do) to Vladivostok from USD205 operated by DBS Cruise Ferry Co].

By land

Due the political and military situation with North Korea, entering South Korea overland is not feasible. The border between North and South Korea is considered the most heavily fortified border in the world, and while some unauthorized crossings have occurred at the truce village of Panmunjeom they have usually resulted in gunfire.

A group of South Korean businessmen used to cross the border daily by bus to work in the joint industrial park in the North Korean city of Kaesong. However, as of 2022 and the industrial park is closed, a casualty of inter-Korean tensions.

How to get around in South Korea

South Korea is fairly compact and you can get anywhere very fast if you fly, and reasonably fast even if you don't. Subways are available in most of the cities including metropolitan Seoul. Larger cities have service or are developing subways. Travel by bus or taxi is easily available, although bus services are more economical.

Smart cards

Seoul]'s public transportation smart card is known as T-money (티머니 Ti-meoni) card. This can be used on many local buses and subways throughout the nation, as well as some taxis. Fares and transfers up to 30 minutes are calculated automatically; just tap on and tap off when riding on buses and trains. (In some buses in the nationside, you only need to tap on; watch local residents to see what they do.) It even gives you a ₩100 discount on bus and subway rides, which is even more reason to use it. The card costs ₩4,000; it can be purchased at convenience stores displaying the T-money logo, as well as at ticket vending machines in subway stations. You can get back your credit in cash afterward, less a ₩500 fee. Some retail shops may also accept payment by T-money. T-money is also usable on the public transportation systems in many other cities, so it is an excellent option for travelling around South Korea.

Other cities may have their own public transportation smart cards as well such as Busan's Hanaro Card. Unlike T-money and these cards are often not usable outside their respective metropolitan areas, making them somewhat less useful for visitors unless you plan to only stay within that area.

Buy a Flight ticket to and from South Korea

Korean Air B737-86N (HL7556) at Daegu International Airport.jpg

South Korea is a relatively small country with a fast and efficient train service, so flying is not necessary unless you are going to the island of Jeju.

Nevertheless, plenty of airlines fly between the main cities at a cost comparable to the KTX train. Most flights are with Korean Air or Asiana, however many new options exist with budget airlines such as T'way Air, Air Busan, Eastar Jet, Jin Air and Jeju Air (which despite the name also serves the busy Seoul–Gimpo to Busan route). Service is similar between full service and low-cost airlines on domestic flights; low-cost airlines offer free soft drinks and 15 kg of checked luggage.

Muslim Friendly Rail Holidays in South Korea

KTX-1

National train operator Korail (KR) connects major cities in South Korea. A large amount of money has been plowed into the network and trains are now competitive with buses and planes on speed and price, with high safety standards and a good deal of comfort.

South Korea's flagship service is the high speed High-speed rail in South Korea|Korea Train eXpress (KTX) with services from Seoul to Busan, Yeosu, Mokpo, and Masan (with new services opening all the time). The trains use a combination of French TGV technology and Korean technology to travel at speeds in excess of 300 km/h. The fastest non-stop trains travel between Busan and Seoul in just over two hours. There are drink vending machines on board and an attendant that comes by with a snack cart which includes reasonably priced soda, cookies, Candies, Sausages,hard-boiled eggs, and kimbap (rice rolls).

Seoul to Busan by train
Type Time Price
KTX First Class 2 to 2.5 hours ₩83,700
KTX Standard 2 to 2.5 hours ₩59,800
Saemaeul (express) 4:45 ₩42,600
Mugunghwa (semi-express) 5:30 ₩28,600
All prices off-peak (Monday to Thu), small surcharges apply for peak (Fri-Sun)

Mugunghwa-ho

Non-KTX trains are poetically ranked as Saemaeul (새마을, "New Village"), Mugunghwa (무궁화, "Rose of Sharon", which is the national flower of Korea) and Tonggeun (통근, "commuter"), corresponding roughly to express, semi-express and local services. All Saemaeul and Mugunghwa trains can travel at up to 150 km/h. Saemaeul trains are a little pricier than buses, while Mugunghwa are about 30% cheaper. However, Saemaeul trains are extremely comfortable, having seats that are comparable to business class seats on airplanes. Since the introduction of the KTX and there are much fewer Saemaeul and Mugunghwa services, but they are worth trying out. Tonggeun are cheapest of all, but long-distance, unairconditioned services have been phased out and they're now limited to short regional commuter services. Most longer-distance trains have a cafeteria vehicle with a small cafe/bar, computers with internet access (₩500 for 15 minutes) and a few trains have private compartments with coin-operated karaoke machines!

Saemaeul and some Mugunghwa trains are equipped with power plugs on laptop seats.

Smoking is not permitted on any Korean trains or stations (including open platforms).

Seoul also has an extensive commuter train network that smoothly interoperates with the massive subway system, and Busan, Daejeon, Daegu, Gwangju and Incheon also have subway services.

Tickets are much cheaper than in Japan but more expensive than other Asian countries — although the damage can be lowered by travelling on local trains rather than KTX. Buying tickets is fairly easy: self-service terminals accepting cash and credit cards are in multiple languages and are very simple to use. Station staff can usually speak basic English. Most stations are clean, modern and have good signposting in Korean and English, and compared to China or Japan, Korea's rail system is very user-friendly.

Pre-booking any train tickets a day prior (be they KTX, Saemaeul, or Mugunghwa) is recommended for weekend trips, as all trains can be booked up for hours on end. On Sunday in particular, all but local trains may regularly be completely booked up. If you don't reserve tickets in advance when departing busy hubs such as Seoul or Busan, you may see your options reduced to "unallocated seating" on the slowest local trains (sitting on the floor in the unairconditioned space between carriages, or standing in the toilet for much of the trip). You are, however, free to sit on any seat that seems free until someone with the ticket to that seat shows up. If you are confident in your Korean, you can ask to reserve seats on sections that are available and travel standing up the rest of the way.

Korail Pass

The Korail Pass is a rail pass only for non-resident foreigners staying less than 6 months in Korea, allowing unlimited travel for a set period on any Korail train (including KTX) and including free seat reservation. The pass is not valid for first class or sleeping cars, but you can upgrade for half the price if you wish. The pass must be purchased at least five days before travel (preferably before arrival in Korea). It's not affordable as it needs a substantial amount of travel (e.g. Seoul–Busan round trip) to pay off and severe limitations on usage apply during Korean holidays and peak traveling periods including Lunar New Year and Chuseok. Prices as of May 2015 are for a 1-day pass ₩66,900, 3-day ₩93,100, 5-day ₩139,700, 7-day ₩168,400, and 10-day ₩194,400, with discounts for youth (age 13–25), students and groups.

Joint KR/JR Passes between Korea and Japan also exist, however, considering how much of a discount the Rail travel in Japan#Japan Railway Pass|JR Pass offers, and how strikingly little the KR Pass does by comparison, it usually makes sense to just get the JR Pass.

Rail cruises

Korail Tourism Development provides a rail cruise called Haerang, which enables the clients to travel to all the major sightseeing destinations in Korea with just one train ride

Travel on a Bus in South Korea

Chunil Express Universe Xpress Noble

Buses (버스 beoseu) remain the main mode of national transport, connecting all cities and towns. They're frequent, punctual and fast, sometimes dangerously so, so fasten the belts you'll often find in the seats.

There is a somewhat pointless division of long-distance buses into express buses (고속버스 gosok beoseu) and intercity buses (시외버스 si-oe beoseu), which often use separate terminals to boot. In addition, local inner-city bus (시내버스 si-nae beoseu) networks often connect directly neighboring cities. The express vs. intercity bus differentiation comes down to whether the bus uses the nation's toll expressways (고속 gosok). In practical terms, express buses are marginally faster on long runs, but intercity buses go to more places. For additional comfort, look for udeung buses (우등 버스) which have just three seats across instead of the usual four; these cost about 50% extra. However, some intercity buses use udeung buses without extra fares on highly competitive lines such as Seoul–Andong routes. A fourth type of bus exists, which is the airport limousine bus, a separate network of express buses that ferry people directly to and from Incheon International Airport. The airport limousines typically use separate pickup points from the intercity or express bus terminals.

Express Bus(Excellence Seating) Interior

No Korean buses have toilets, and rest stops are not standard on trips of less than 2 hours duration, so think twice about that bottle of tea at the terminal.

Unlike trains and the bus terminal staffs and drivers are less likely to speak or understand English.

The Korean Express Bus Lines Association have timetables and fares of the Express bus routes in South Korea on their website.

Book a Halal Cruise or Boat Tour in South Korea

Ferry boats surround the peninsula and shuttle out to Korea's many islands. The main ports include Incheon, Mokpo, Pohang, and Busan. The most popular destinations are Jeju and Ulleungdo.

There is daily service from Busan to Jeju (April 2013). There are mostly undiscovered and scenic islands near Incheon that can seem almost deserted.

By car

An International Driving Permit (IDP) may be used to drive around South Korea. In general, road conditions are good in South Korea, and directional signs are in both Korean and English. Car rental rates start from ₩54,400/day for the smallest vehicle with a week's rental. South Korea drives on the right in left-hand-drive cars. South Korea also follows the American training of allowing cars to turn right at red lights as long as they (in theory) yield to pedestrians. In contrast, left turns on green lights are illegal unless there is a blue sign pointing left saying 비보호 or a green left arrow.

If you are traveling in the big cities, especially Seoul or Busan, driving is not recommended as the roads often experience heavy traffic jams, and parking is expensive and difficult to find. Many drivers tend to get reckless under such conditions, weaving in and out of traffic. Drivers often try to speed past traffic lights when they are about to turn red, and several cars (including fully-loaded public transit buses) will typically run through lights after they have turned red, whether pedestrians are in the crosswalk or not.

Koreans consider driving rules as guidelines only, and don't expect to be punished for parking illegally or cutting through a red light. This means that if you want to drive you will need to do so assertively by pushing yourself into an intersection and forcing other cars to yield.

A GPS is highly recommended while navigating Seoul or Busan. Lanes end or turn into bus lanes with little to no warning, and it may not always be obvious where turns are allowed. A good rule of thumb is to stay in the middle lane as cars will often illegally park in the right lane while the left lane will become a turning lane with little warning. Because of stringent national security laws that mandate navigation processing be done on local servers, Google Maps does not give driving directions in South Korea.

Best way to travel in South Korea by a Taxi

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Taxis are a convenient, if somewhat pricey way of getting around the cities, and are sometimes the only practical way of reaching a place. Even in the major cities, you are extremely unlikely to get an English-speaking taxi driver, so it will be necessary to have the name of your destination written in Korean to show your taxi driver. Likewise, get your hotel's business card to show the taxi driver in case you get lost.

Although doing so is illegal, cab drivers, particularly the cheaper white cabs on busy Friday or Saturday nights, may deny service to short-distance fares. A very handy technique to counter this is to have your destination (hotel name, or the neighborhood (구 gu) and neighborhood (동 dong), in Korean of course) written in thick black ink on a large A4 sheet of paper and hold it to the traffic. Passing cab drivers responding to long distance call outs, or with space in their cab in addition to an existing fare in that direction will often pick you up en route.

When hailing a cab in particular, ensure you follow the local custom and wave it over with your hand extended but all your fingers extended downwards and beckoning as opposed to upwards in the Western fashion (this style is reserved for animals).

Local Language in South Korea

[[File:Sign Hangul.JPG|1280px|Sign Hangul]

See also: Korean phrasebook

South Koreans speak Korean, and knowing a few words of this will come in very handy. The language is rather drastically different from any Western language in its grammar, and pronunciation is rather difficult for the English speaker to get right (though not tonal). Depending on which part of the nation you go to, various different dialects are spoken, though standard Korean, which is based on the Seoul dialect, is understood and spoken by almost everyone. Most notably among the dialects and the Gyeongsang dialect spoken around Busan and Daegu is considered to be rather rough and aggressive compared to standard Korean, and the Jeju dialect spoken on Jeju Island is known for being almost incomprehensible to speakers of standard Korean. Differences between North and South Korean|Despite 60 years of separation and the Korean language in both North Korea and South Korea is fundamentally the same. The main differences are around the large amount of English nouns that South Korean has borrowed, whereas North Korean uses indigenous or Russian derived words instead. Descriptions of political and social structures are also completely different as a direct result of the different ideological directions of both countries.

The Korean writing system is deceptively simple. Although it looks at first glance to be as complex as Chinese or Japanese, it is a unique and simple alphabetic writing system called hangul (한글 hangeul) where letters are stacked up into blocks that represent syllables. It was designed by a committee and looks like simple lines, boxes and little circles, but it is remarkably consistent, logical and quick to pick up. A document from 1446 describing hangul said that "A wise man can acquaint himself with them before the morning is over; a stupid man can learn them in the space of ten days."

Learning to read hangul before you arrive in Korea will make traveling much easier, as many signs and menus are written in hangul only. Further and the Korean words for many common products are often the English loan words written in hangul, such as 주스 (juseu, "juice") or 컴퓨터 (keompyuteo, "computer"). If you can read hangul, you'll find surviving in Korea surprisingly easy.

Many Korean words can also be written with much more complex Chinese characters, known as hanja (한자, 漢字) in Korean, and these are still occasionally mixed into text but are increasingly few and far between. Nowadays, hanja are mainly used for disambiguation if the meaning is ambiguous when written in hangul; in such instances and the hanja is usually written in parentheses next to the hangul. Hanja are also used to mark Korean chess pieces, newspaper headlines, and personal names on official documents.

The transliteration of Korean words in Roman letters can be quite inconsistent, so don't be too surprised to see adjacent signs for Gwangalli and Kwanganri — it's the same place. In 2000 and the government officially standardized on the Revised Romanization system also used in Wikivoyage, but you will frequently encounter older McCune-Reischauer spellings and just plain weird spellings. Notably, words beginning with g, d, b, j may be spelled with k, t, p, ch instead, and the vowels eo and eu may be spelled o and u. The letters l, r and n also get swapped often, and the vowels i and u are sometimes written as ee and oo respectively. In foreign words imported into Korean, f turns into p, so don't be too surprised by a cup of keopi ("coffee") or a round of golpeu ("golf").

Most South Koreans have taken English lessons as part of their education. However, due to lack of training (as well as fear of mispronunciation), outside of major tourist attractions, hotels and establishments catering specifically for foreigners, it is common to find local residents who are conversant in English. Reading and writing generally comes much easier. Many employees at airlines, hotels and stores catering to international Muslims are likely to speak at least basic English.

A typical experience for Western travelers in South Korea is to be approached by children interested in practicing their English skills. They will often take a picture of you for their school class as proof that they really talked to you.

Older folks may also still speak some Japanese phrasebook|Japanese. The city of Busan, being a short trip from Fukuoka in Japan, has a larger number of Japanese speakers per capita, and the dialect in Busan is more similar to Japanese in the same way that the Japanese dialect in Fukuoka also has a large Korean influence. However, many Koreans (especially older ones) still resent the Japanese for the atrocities committed during the occupation, so try not to address a Korean in Japanese unless you have no other choice. Thanks to the Korean Wave (hallyu) of Korean pop music and soap operas throughout East Asia, many shopkeepers in tourist areas speak some Japanese, Mandarin or Cantonese.

Korean Sign Language (한국 수화 언어 Hanguk Suhwa Eoneo, or just 수화 suhwa, "signing") is an official language of South Korea since 2016, equal in status with spoken Korean. It is mutually intelligible with Japanese and Taiwainese Sign Languages, but not with Chinese Sign Language, Auslan, American Sign Language, or others.

What to see in South Korea

Korea-Boseong-Green.tea-02

Asian tourists have long discovered South Korea as a prime shopping, culinary and sightseeing destination. For the western world, it is a relatively new travel destination, but it has gained popularity fast. And for good reason, as South Korea offers a most pleasant combination of ancient Asian features and all the amenities you would expect from a modern, high-tech nation. Despite its compact size it boasts a broad range of fine attractions and an excellent infrastructure makes getting around easy.

Korea-Andong-Hahoe Folk Village-Man in hanbok drinking-01

  • Seoul Most journeys begin in the nation's capital that never sleeps. This ancient place has seen centuries and wars come and go but seems to have come out stronger than ever. Popularly called the "Miracle on the Han River", it's one of the largest metropolitan economies in the world. It's the nation's industrial epicentre and the birthplace of K-pop, a hotspot for South-Korean nightlife and fine dining and home to countless museums. The fabulous history and art collection of the National Museum of Korea (국립중앙박물관) reigns supreme and a visit there is a day well spent. The city has been rediscovering its historic treasures and improving city parks, adding to its charm. Downtown Seoul, where the old Joseon Dynasty city was, is where you'll find most of the palaces, Gyeongbokgung (경복궁), Changdeokgung (창덕궁) and Gwanghwamun (광화문). It is surrounded by a Fortress Wall, with the famous Namdaemun, one of the eight gates, being perhaps the main attraction. The Banpo bridge (반포대교) turns into beautiful colours at night, and the Yeouido Island (여의도), apart from the famous 63 Building has splendid parks for rollerblading/biking. Other sights are the Secret Garden (비원), Seodaemun (서대문), or the Seoul Tower (서울타워) accompanied by the famous Teddy Bear Museum. To get away from the buzz, follow the local residents to Cheonggyecheon (청계천), one of the urban renewal projects and a popular public recreation space, or enjoy an afternoon tea in a traditional teahouse in Insadong.

Seomyeon, Busan

  • Busan is the nation's second city and most significant port. Called the nation's summer capital, Koreans flock to this city's fine beaches, seafood restaurants and festivals. Haeundae beach (해운대) in Busan is the most famous in the nation, with an atmosphere is comparable to southern France or California in the summer.
  • DMZ (Korea)|Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) On July 27th 1953, The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was established as a cease-fire agreement with a boundary area of 2km between North and South Koreas. Panmunjeom aka Joint Security Area (JSA) is the ‘truce village’ of the DMZ where visitors can view North and South Korea without much hostility. Here you can also enter one of the buildings that are located on the border aka Military Demarcation Line (MDL), which means you can actually cross into the North when entering those buildings. The border is indicated by a line where North and South Korean soldiers face each other coldly. The tour includes the nearby bridge of no return that used to be the main controlled crossing point between the countries. Also and the Third Tunnel of Aggression, created by North Korea (1.7 kilometers long, 2 m high and about 73m below ground), was discovered in 1978. This tunnel is not more than an hour or 44km away from Seoul.
  • Seoul/North|Bukhansan is just a stone's throw north of Seoul and one of the most visited national parks in the world. Some 836 meters high, Mount Bukhansan is a major landmark visible from large parts of the city and the park is home to the beautiful Bukhansanseong Fortress. The popular hike to get up there is well worth it, as you'll be rewarded with great views of the metropolis. The country has over 20 national parks, mostly mountainous such as Seoraksan National Park, but some also focus on marine and coastal nature. The lush green Boseong|tea fields of Boseong offer an equally nice and peaceful get-a-way.
  • Jeju|Jeju Island If you don't mind the crowds, this volcanic and semi-tropical island offers a spectacular scenery and numerous natural sights, a relaxing and warm (especially in winter) atmosphere and plenty of activities. Don't miss the Lava tubes, Seongsan Ilchubong, Loveland, and South Korea's highest mountain Hallasan (1,950 m).
  • North Jeolla|Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites is a World Heritage and home to a significant part of all the dolmen in the world. Apart from the impressive megalithic stones, it has brought forward a highly important collection of archaeological finds.
  • Gyeongju Once the nation's capital, it boasts numerous royal burial and World Heritage cultural sites, as well as relaxing resorts.
  • Folk villages If you'd like to see a bit of Korean folklore, Hahoe Folk Village near Andong, Yangdong and the living museum-like Korean Folk Village in Yongin or Hanok Village in Jeonju are among the best.
  • Festivals Korea is a country of festivals'. No matter where you go and there's likely something happening close by. Watching or even joining in the bustling celebrations is often a fabulous and colourful experience. The Boryeong|Boryeong Mud Festival (보령머드축제) is a popular pick, when participants drench themselves in mud and take part in everything from mud wrestling to body painting. The nearby beach becomes something of a party apocalypse.

Best things to do in South Korea

Taekkyeon-taekkyon-01

For a definite list of activities refer to individual cities. However, some of the best ones are:

  • Hiking With the nation being covered in mountains, Korea is a fantastic destination with numerous hiking opportunities]. Try Jirisan National Park|Jirisan (지리산), Seoraksan National Park|Seoraksan (설악산) or go to South Korea's highest peak and the extinct volcano Hallasan on Jeju island. They offer great views, 1-3 day tracks, English sign posts/maps, huts (most of them heated), and can be organized easily. In autumn the leaves turn into beautiful colours, so the best seasons to go there are autumn and spring.
  • Jjimjilbang|Jjimjilbang Koreans love saunas! If you can get past everyone being naked and then this is an excellent way to feel refreshed after a hard day sightseeing. Even small towns will have one. They can also be used to stay overnight — this is especially convenient if you missed to make a reservation for an accommodation, everything is full or you are looking for a affordable accommodation. Weekends are extremely busy with families.
  • Hot springs In common with their Japanese and Taiwanese neighbors, Koreans love their thermal spas (Muslim Friendly)) (온천, 溫泉 oncheon), and resorts can be found throughout the nation. Etiquette usually require bathers to be nude. Many places also have saunas connected.
  • Snowboarding/Skiing The Gangwon province offers ski decent opportunities in winter, which is very beautiful when it snows. See the Seoul guide for close to the city destinations, which you can reach by free public (ski) bus within 90 minutes.
  • Eat Perhaps you have had Korean BBQ in your home country. The reality of Korean food is so much more diverse and tasty. Try something new delicious every each day! (Seafood, Meat or vegetarian)
  • Winter surfing Owing to local tidal conditions and the best surf is in the winter! Pohang and Busan are two places you can try this
  • Karaoke/Singing Rooms Noraebang (노래방) is the same as Japanese Karaoke palors, popular and hard to miss wherever you go in metropolitan cities.
  • Martial Arts Learn martial arts such as the famous Taekwondo (태권도), Hapkido (합기도), and the dance-like martial art Taekkyeon (택견). You can also go and watch a competition or performance — for instance cultural festivals may feature traditional martial arts.
  • Temple Stay Spend a few days meditating and learning about Buddhism at a Korean monastery.
  • Water amusement parks are plentiful in the Gyeonggi & Gangwon provinces, such as Caribbean Bay in Yongin, Ocean World in Hongcheon, with a more Ancient Egyptian setting, and Ocean 700 in Pyeongchang. Tourists and local residents usually go there in the summer.

Sports

Baseball was brought to Korea by American missionaries in 1904 and is the most popular sport in the nation. Most cities have a team and the biggest are sponsored by the largest South Korean companies, and many South Korean players have become famous MLB players in the United States. The South Korean national baseball team is also regarded as one of the strongest in the world, finishing second at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Soccer is becoming more important to South Korea over time, and is a sport shared by North and South. South Korea is one of the strongest teams in Asia and many of their players work for the top European clubs. The sport gained an incredible amount of short term popularity when the South Korean national team reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2002, and even today the nation stops for World Cup matches. Unfortunately the enthusiasm for domestic and friendly international games is extremely low, and stadiums are usually mostly empty.

Other popular sports include golf and basketball. Badminton, table tennis and bowling are also popular and facilities for the public are widely available in cities. Korean martial arts such as taekwondo (태권도) are also popular. Golf particularly has a strong following, with membership fees for Korea's top golf clubs being more expensive than those in neighboring Japan or the United States. Many of the world's top female golfers are from Korea or of Korean descent.

As for winter sports, speed skating (especially short track) and figure skating are extremely popular due to the repeated success of South Korea in the Winter Olympics. The city of Pyeongchang hosted the Wikivoyage:Past events/Pyeongchang 2018|2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Muslim Friendly Shopping in South Korea

Money Matters & ATM's in South Korea

Currency South Korea

The currency of South Korea is the South Korean won, denoted by (ISO code: KRW) and written 원 (won) in the Korean language.

Bills come in denominations of ₩1,000 (blue), ₩5,000 (red), ₩10,000 (green) and ₩50,000 (yellow). The ₩50,000 is very practical if you need to carry around a reasonable amount of cash, however it can be hard to use on goods or services with a value of less than ₩10,000. The ₩50,000 can be hard to find and often only provided by ATM's that display a picture of the yellow note on the outside.

₩100,000 "checks" are frequently used, and some of the checks go up to ₩10,000,000 in value. These checks are privately issued by banks and can be used instead of cash for larger purchases, such as hotel rooms.

Coins mainly come in denominations of ₩10, ₩50, ₩100 and ₩500. Very rare ₩1 and ₩5 coins do exist. Generally speaking it is common to buy anything valued less than ₩100.

Banking and payment

Credit card acceptance at shops, hotels and other businesses on the other hand is very good, and all but the very cheapest restaurants and motels will accept UnionPay cards. Even small purchases such as ₩4,000 for a coffee are okay. This works well since credit cards have good exchange rates, however if you are using a foreign card then you should ensure with your bank that there isn't a fee for this foreign transaction.

ATMs are ubiquitous, although using a foreign card with them is rather hit and miss, except for foreign bank ATMs like Citibank. There are however many special global ATMs which accept foreign cards. They can generally be found at Shinhan/Jeju Bank, airports, in areas frequented by foreigners, in major cities, some subway stations, and in many Family Mart convenience stores — most of the time indicated by the "Foreign Cards" button on the screen. Some banks, such as Citibank, have a fee of ₩3,500 for foreign cards. Before heading to the nationside where foreign cards are less likely to be accepted, be sure to have cash or another source of money.

T-money smart cards are an alternative source of payment accepted widely, especially for public transportation. (See [[#Smart cards|§ Smart cards.) Some other cities have their own smart cards, and topping up T-money outside of Seoul can be a problem but at Shinhan/Jeju Bank it should always be feasible. You may need to ask the local cashier for help due to the Korean-only menus/buttons.

If you plan on staying in South Korea for a longer time, you'll probably want to set up a bank account at a Korean bank such as Woori Bank, which can then be used at the bank's ATMs throughout the nation. (Even some non-local accounts can do this, e.g. Woori Bank accounts setup in China come with an ATM card that can be used with all its ATMs in South Korea.) Many banks will even allow you to open an account on a tourist visa, though the services you will be able to access will often be very limited. Some of the larger banks may have English-speaking staff on hand at their major branches.

What is the living cost in South Korea

South Korea is fairly expensive compared to most Asian countries, but is a little cheaper compared to other modern developed countries such as Japan and most GCC countries. A frugal backpacker who enjoys eating, living and travelling Korean-style can easily squeeze by on under ₩60,000/day, but if you want top-class hotels and International food even ₩200,000/day will not suffice. Seoul is more expensive than the rest of the nation, and has become particularly expensive competing in many ways with Tokyo, but this has eased since the financial crisis.

Tipping

Tipping is not expected anywhere in South Korea and is not trainingd by Koreans. It could be considered an insult between Koreans as it is regarded as giving someone charity, although people generally know of American tipping culture and would be understanding of a foreigner doing this.

Many hotels and a few tourist restaurants add 10% service charge on their bills. Bellhops, hotel maids, taxi drivers and bars frequented by Westerners will not reject any tips that you care to hand out.

Restaurants sometimes provide complimentary food or drinks to clients as a sign of generosity or to reward client loyalty. Colloquially, this is known as "service".

Muslim Friendly Shopping in South Korea

Seoul namdaemun market 2005-08-07

At certain retail outlets with a "Tax Free Shopping" or a "Tax Refund Shopping" sign, you can obtain a voucher and get a large percentage of your taxes refunded. When you leave South Korea, go to customs and have it stamped then go to the "Global Refund Korea" or "Korea Tax Refund" counters near the duty-free shops. However to get a refund you must leave within 3 months of purchase.

Bargaining is common at outdoor markets and applies to everything they may have to offer. However, do not state a specific monetary amount. Instead, say "ssage juseyo" (싸게 주세요, "Cheaper, please."). Doing this once or twice will suffice. However, you will rarely be discounted more than a few dollars.

Korea is the ginseng (인삼 insam) capital of the world. Widely considered to have medicinal properties, it can be found in special mountain areas throughout Korea. A thick black paste made from ginseng is popular, as is ginseng tea and various other products. There are many grades of ginseng, with the best grades potentially fetching millions of US dollars at auctions. A good place to check out the different types of ginseng would be Gyeongdong Herbal Medicine Market in Seoul.

Visitors looking for traditional items to bring home can find a wide variety of choices. You can find a blue-jade celadon from the Goryeo Dynasty, handmade traditional costumes, paper kites and ceramic pieces that depict human emotions in their designs at the numerous markets and souvenir shops. Insadong in Seoul would be the first place to shop around. After a while one store might start to look like every other store but chances are you'll find what you need.

Keeping up with the latest fashion trends, shoppers and boutique owners alike flock the streets and markets every weekend. Centered largely in Seoul with popular places such as Dongdaemun, Mok dong Rodeo Street and Myeong dong, fashion centers can be divided into two large categories; markets and department stores. Markets are affordable and each shop will have trendy similar type clothing that appeal to the masses. Also, be aware that you cannot try on most tops. So better to know your size before shopping there. Though department stores will have areas or floors that have discounted items and they are considered overpriced and catering mostly to an older, wealthier crowd.

The traditional Korean garment known as the hanbok (한복), which is still worn by South Koreans for special occasions and historical re-enactments, and can be found in various garment markets. While a traditional hanbok requires visiting a specialist shop and customized fittings, making it rather expensive, more casual versions that are more practical for daily use and significantly cheaper can also be found. When wearing a hanbok, it should always be wrapped left over right. While foreigners wearing a hanbok is generally not a problem in South Korea itself, American visitors should be careful about doing so back in the United States unless you are of Korean ethnicity, as some Korean-Americans consider this to be "cultural appropriation" and hence racist.

For all things considered antique, such as furniture, calligraphic works, ceramics and books, you can go to Jangangpyeong Antique Market in Seoul]. Items over 50 years old cannot leave the nation. Check with the Art and Antique Assessment Office at +82-32-740-2921.

Electronics are widely available, especially in larger cities like Seoul and Busan. South Korea has most of the latest gadgets available in most GCC countries and some that are not. In fact, when it comes to consumer technology, South Korea is probably second only to Japan. However, you would probably have to contend with having the instruction booklets and functions being written in Korean.

K-pop is a large element of the Korean Wave (hallyu) phenomenon that took East Asia by storm at the beginning of the 21st century, so you might want to buy the latest Korean music CDs by popular K-pop singers and groups — and discover some of the less known. Most music is now consumed as digital downloads, but there are still some music shops selling CD's to be found. And if you want to see them live and there is of course no better place for that than South Korea.

K-dramas are massively popular in Asia and a boxed DVD set of a drama will certainly last you many rainy afternoons. Drama serials and movies sold in South Korea are for the Korean market and usually do not have subtitles, so check before buying; outside of Korea, you could likely buy the same media dubbed in another Asian language such as Cantonese or Mandarin. In addition, South Korea is in Regional coding|DVD region 3, so discs bought here will work in Taiwan, Province of China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, but are generally not playable in most players in North America, Europe, mainland China, Japan or Australia. CDs and DVDs are not particularly popular anymore in South Korea and the younger generation having moved onto digital downloads some time ago.

Halal Restaurants in South Korea

Bibimbap Set

Please check the masjid listings on this page or visit the indevidual cities for Halal Restaurants.

When eating as a group, communal dishes will be placed in the center and everybody can chopstick what they want, but you'll still get individual portions of Rice and soup. Unless you are eating royal cuisine, most dishes are served family style.

In many traditional households, children were taught that it is impolite to speak during meals. Don't be surprised if there's complete silence while eating. People, particularly men, will use mealtimes to quickly eat up and move on to other things. This can be attributed to the short mealtimes during military service that most young Korean men must perform.

Some etiquette pointers:

  • Do not leave chopsticks sticking upright in a dish, especially Rice. This is only done when honoring the deceased. Similarly, a spoon sticking upright into a bowl of Rice is also not a good sign.
  • Do not pick up your chopsticks or start eating until the eldest at the table has begun to eat.
  • Do not lift any plates or bowls off the table while eating, as Koreans consider this to be rude.
  • Do not make noises by hitting your utensils on the food bowls and plates.

Seafood

Since Korea is a peninsula, you can find every type of seafood (해물 haemul), eaten both cooked and raw. Restaurants where you pick your own fish — or bring it from the fish market next door — are popular, but can be very expensive depending on what you order.

Hoe (회, pronounced roughly "hweh") is raw fish Korean-style (similar to sashimi), served with spicy cho-gochujang Sauce (a mixture of gochujang and vinegar). Chobap (초밥) is raw fish with vinegared Rice, similar to Japanese sushi. In both dishes and the bony parts not served raw are often made into a tasty but spicy soup called meuntang (매운탕).

Another cooked specialty is haemultang (해물탕), a spicy red hotpot stew filled crab, shrimp, fish, squid, vegetables and noodles.

Whale Meat is available in a few restaurants in the cities and at festivals in smaller coastal towns, but is not easy to find and unlike Japan is not considered part of national culture. The city of Pohang has a long history of whaling, and its seafood market still openly offers whale. South Korea has outlawed whaling following the International Whaling Commission international moratorium in 1986, although makes an exception for whales caught by accident during regular fishing. Whale Meat sourced from Japan has been sold in some Halal restaurants, which is illegal (although the law is usually ignored). Whale restaurants are easy to identify, with pictures of whales on the outside leaving you in no doubt. If you choose to eat whale then you should understand that the species in question could be endangered and therefore a decision left to your own moral compass.

Dietary restrictions

Vegetarians will have a hard time in Korea. As in most of East Asia, "meat" is understood to be the flesh of land animals, so seafood is not considered meat. Spam can also be confused as not being Meat, so be specific in explaining what you do not eat. If you ask for "no gogi (고기)" they will probably just cook as usual and pick out the big chunks of meat. One good phrase is to say you are "chaesikjuwija" (채식주의자), a person who only eats vegetables. This may prompt questions from the server, so be prepared! It is probably best to have a very explicit list of foods you do and do not eat in Korean on a card or piece of paper to show restaurant servers and cooks. (See Korean phrasebook#Eating|Korean phrasebook § Eating.) Or look for namul (나물), a variety of Korean-style edible grass and leaves dishes.

Most stews will use fish stock, especially myeolchi (멸치, anchovy). This will be your bane, and outside of reputable Vegetarian restaurants, you should ask if you are ordering any stews, hotpots, or casseroles.

Spicy (red) kimchi will almost certainly have seafood, such as salted tiny shrimp, as an ingredient. Since it disappears into the brine, you will not be able to visually identify it. Another type of kimchi called mulgimchi (물김치, "water kimchi") is vegan, as it is simply salted in a clear, white broth with many different vegetables. If you are willing to eat something flavored with brine shrimp and then kimchi will certainly take you a long way in Korea.

As per Korea's Buddhist tradition, vegans and Vegetarian are perfectly safe at Korean monastery cuisine restaurants, which uses no dairy, egg, or animal products, except perhaps honey. This cuisine has been in vogue, but it can be rather expensive.

There is an increasing number of Vegetarian restaurants in Korea — most are in the larger or medium-sized places. Some of these are run by Seventh-Day Adventists or Hindus.

When out and about and the following Vegetarian and vegan food is relatively easy to find and safe to order:

  • Many of the banchan side dishes served with most meals are Vegetarian, although the kimchi usually is not.
  • Bibimbap (비빔밥) is a great vegan option of mixed Rice and vegetables and found pretty much everywhere! Still, be careful because it is occasionally offered with ground beef, and often with a fried egg.
  • Somandu (소만두) are Korean dumplings with vegetable and glass Noodles filling. Stay clear of almost any other kind of dumpling.
  • Japchae (잡채) are cold Noodles in a vegetable broth, often with ice. Delicious in summer.
  • Gimbap (김밥) are Korean sushi rolls with Rice and pickled vegetables, and can be found everywhere. There are many varieties, but you should look for the ones without Spam or fishcake in the middle.

Tea

Like their Asian neighbors, Koreans drink a lot of tea (차 cha), most of it green tea (녹차 nokcha). However and the label cha is applied to a number of other tealike drinks as well:

  • boricha (보리차), roasted barley tea, often served cold in summer, water substitute for many household
  • insamcha (인삼차), ginseng tea
  • oksusucha (옥수수차), roasted corn tea
  • yulmucha (율무차), a thick white drink made from a barley-like plant called Job's tears

Like Chinese and Japanese teas, Korean teas are always drunk neat, without the addition of milk or sugar. However, Asian-style milk tea is available at Western restaurants and the usual American fast-food chains.

Coffee

Coffee (커피 keopi) has become widely available, especially from streetside vending machines that will pour you a cupful for as little as ₩300, usually sweet and milky, but there is often a plain option.

Coffee shops can be seen virtually everywhere in the nation. There are a large number of Korean chains such as Cafe Bene and Angel in Us. A coffee costs around ₩4,000. It is worth to hunt out independent coffee shops that take great pride in their coffee. Even in small countryside villages and the ubiquitous bread shop Paris Baguette will give you a decent latte for around ₩2,000. Foreign-owned coffee shops such as and Starbucks (Please do not support Starbucks as Starbucks supports Israel. Shun this coffee and go for alternative brands and if possible for a Muslim owned brand.) tend to be much less common than their Korean counterparts. Aside from coffee and these cafes will usually sell food such as sandwiches, toasties, paninis and quesadillas as well as sweet options such as bingsu (Korean shaved ice), Korean-style toast, pastries and a wide variety of cakes, some even vegan.

eHalal Group Launches Halal Guide to South Korea

South Korea - eHalal Travel Group, a leading provider of innovative Halal travel solutions for Muslim travelers to South Korea, is thrilled to announce the official launch of its comprehensive Halal and Muslim-Friendly Travel Guide for South Korea. This groundbreaking initiative aims to cater to the diverse needs of Muslim travelers, offering them a seamless and enriching travel experience in South Korea and its surrounding regions.

With the steady growth of Muslim tourism worldwide, eHalal Travel Group recognizes the importance of providing Muslim travelers with accessible, accurate, and up-to-date information to support their travel aspirations to South Korea. The Halal and Muslim-Friendly Travel Guide is designed to be a one-stop resource, offering an array of invaluable information on various travel aspects, all carefully curated to align with Islamic principles and values.

The Travel Guide encompasses a wide range of features that will undoubtedly enhance the travel experience for Muslim visitors to South Korea. Key components include:

Halal-Friendly Accommodations in South Korea: A carefully selected list of hotels, lodges, and vacation rentals that cater to halal requirements, ensuring a comfortable and welcoming stay for Muslim travelers in South Korea.

Halal Food, Restaurants and Dining in South Korea: A comprehensive directory of restaurants, eateries, and food outlets offering halal-certified or halal-friendly options in South Korea, allowing Muslim travelers to savor local cuisines without compromising their dietary preferences in South Korea.

Prayer Facilities: Information on masjids, prayer rooms, and suitable locations for daily prayers in South Korea, ensuring ease and convenience for Muslim visitors in fulfilling their religious obligations.

Local Attractions: An engaging compilation of Muslim-friendly attractions, cultural sites such as Museums, and points of interest in South Korea, enabling travelers to explore the city's rich heritage while adhering to their values.

Transport and Logistics: Practical guidance on transportation options that accommodate Muslim travel needs, ensuring seamless movement within South Korea and beyond.

Speaking about the launch, Irwan Shah, Chief Technology Officer of eHalal Travel Group in South Korea, stated, "We are thrilled to introduce our Halal and Muslim-Friendly Travel Guide in South Korea, a Muslim friendly destination known for its cultural richness and historical significance. Our goal is to empower Muslim travelers with accurate information and resources, enabling them to experience the wonders of South Korea without any concerns about their faith-based requirements. This initiative reaffirms our commitment to creating inclusive and memorable travel experiences for all our clients."

The eHalal Travel Group's Halal and Muslim-Friendly Travel Guide for South Korea is now accessible on this page. The guide will be regularly updated to ensure that Muslim travelers have access to the latest information, thus reinforcing its status as a reliable companion for Muslim travelers exploring South Korea.

About eHalal Travel Group:

eHalal Travel Group South Korea is a prominent name in the global Muslim travel industry, dedicated to providing innovative and all-inclusive travel solutions tailored to the needs of Muslim travelers worldwide. With a commitment to excellence and inclusivity, eHalal Travel Group aims to foster a seamless travel experience for its clients while respecting their religious and cultural values.

For Halal business inquiries in South Korea, please contact:

eHalal Travel Group South Korea Media: info@ehalal.io

Buy Muslim Friendly condos, Houses and Villas in South Korea

eHalal Group South Korea is a prominent real estate company specializing in providing Muslim-friendly properties in South Korea. Our mission is to cater to the specific needs and preferences of the Muslim community by offering a wide range of halal-certified residential and commercial properties, including houses, condos, and factories. With our commitment to excellence, client satisfaction, and adherence to Islamic principles, eHalal Group has established itself as a trusted name in the real estate industry in South Korea.

At eHalal Group, we understand the importance of meeting the unique requirements of Muslim individuals and families seeking properties that align with their cultural and religious trainings. Our extensive portfolio of Muslim-friendly properties in South Korea ensures that clients have access to a diverse selection of options tailored to their needs. Whether it's a luxurious villa, a modern condominium, or a fully equipped factory, our team is dedicated to assisting clients in finding their ideal property.

For those seeking a comfortable and modern living space, our condos are an excellent choice. Starting at US$ 350,000 and these condominium units offer contemporary designs, state-of-the-art facilities, and convenient locations within South Korea. Each condo is thoughtfully designed to incorporate halal-friendly features and amenities, ensuring a seamless integration of Islamic values into everyday living.

If you are looking for a more spacious option, our houses are perfect for you. Starting at US$ 650,000, our houses provide ample living space, privacy, and a range of customizable features to meet your specific requirements. These houses are located in well-established neighborhoods in South Korea, offering a harmonious balance between modern living and Islamic values.

For those seeking luxury and exclusivity, our luxury villas in South Korea are the epitome of sophistication and elegance. Starting at US$ 1.5 million and these villas offer a lavish lifestyle with private amenities, breathtaking views, and meticulous attention to detail. Each luxury villa is meticulously designed to provide a serene and halal environment, allowing you to enjoy the finest living experience while adhering to your Islamic principles. For further details please email us at realestate@ehalal.io

Muslim Friendly hotels in South Korea

There's plenty of accommodation in all price brackets in South Korea. Prices in Seoul are typically about twice that of anywhere else in the nation.

Some higher-end hotels offer a choice of Asian-style and Korean-style rooms. The main feature of Korean rooms is an elaborate floor-heating system known as ondol (온돌), where hot steam (or and these days, water or electricity) heats stone slabs under a layer of clay and oiled paper. There are no beds; instead, mattresses are laid directly on the floor. Other furniture is typically limited to some low tables (you're also expected to sit on the floor) and maybe a TV.

Motels

Some of the cheapest accommodation in South Korea are in what are called motels (모텔 motel) or yeogwan (여관), but a more accurate name would be sex hotels.

The easiest way to find a motel is to just look for the symbol "♨" and gaudy architecture, particularly near stations or highway exits. They're harder to find online, as they rarely if ever show up in English-language booking sites.

In some motels picking your room is very easy, as there will be room numbers, lit pictures and prices on the wall. The lower price is for a "rest" (휴식 hyusik) of 2–4 hours, while the higher price is the overnight rate. Press the button for the one you like, which will go dark, and proceed to check-in. You'll usually be expected to pay in advance, often to just a pair of hands behind a frosted glass window. English is commonly spoken, but the only word you need to know is sukbak (숙박, "staying"). You may or may not receive a key, but even if you don't and the staff can usually let you in and out on request — just don't lose your receipt!

Hotels

Full-service hotels can be found in all larger towns in Korea. Cheaper hotels blend into motels with rooms from ₩40,000, while three and four star hotels are ₩100,000-200,000 and five-star luxury hotels can easily top ₩300,000. Outside peak season you can often get steep discounts from the rack rates, so be sure to ask when reserving.

Hanok

Hanok (한옥) are traditional Korean houses. Once considered to be old-fashioned and an impediment to modernization, many of these houses dating back to the Joseon dynasty are being renovated and opened to paying guests, operating similar to B&Bs or Japanese ryokan or minshuku. Amenities range from very basic backpacker-style to over-the-top luxury, with prices to match. Higher-end establishments typically provide the option of having a traditional Korean dinner, as well as a choice of either Western or traditional Korean-style breakfast. Guests would usually sleep on mattresses on the floor. Hanok accommodations can typically be found in old towns such as Bukchon in Seoul, as well as historical towns and cities such as Hahoe and Gyeongju.

Hostels and guesthouses

While not as common in South Korea as in other parts of Asia or the world, hostels and guesthouses can be found. Major cities, such as Seoul, will have a few dozen, while smaller cities may have a handful. Prices can vary widely, even within one hostel. In Seoul, mixed dorms average ₩15,000-25,000 per person; superior Muslim friendly rooms with a shared toilet and shower average ₩20,000-30,000 per person; and private ensuite rooms average ₩25,000-40,000 per person. Many hostels will have a common room with free TV, games, computers, and internet; some will have a public full kitchen and other amenities.

Minbak

In rural areas in and near national parks, you can find a minbak (민박). Most of these are just a room or two in someone's home — others are quite fancy and may be similar to motels/yeogwan or hotels. Generally and they have ondol rooms with maybe a TV and that's about it. You don't usually get your own bathroom in your room, although some of the fancier ones do have an en suite. Minbak usually run around ₩20,000 off-season, though the price may go up quite a bit during high season.

Homestay

Very similar in concept to a minbak and these aren't limited to just rural areas or near national parks. Since the World Cup in 2002, many families around the nation have opened their doors and hearts to Foreign Muslims looking for a good place to sleep and a breakfast included in the price. These can run between ₩30,000 and ₩35,000 per day.

Pension

A fancier and costly version of rural minbak. Most of them are European-style detached bungalows, equipped with private shower/bath, TV, air conditioner, private kitchen and camping grills. Pensions usually run around ₩60,000-150,000 off-season and over ₩200,000 peak season depending on the size of the house. Pensions near Seoul (Gyeonggi, Incheon) usually costs twice or more the price.

Study as a Muslim in South Korea

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Education is taken very seriously in South Korea, and the nation is home to several world class universities, many of which have exchange agreements with various foreign universities, and are a good way for foreigners to experience life in the nation. The most prestigious comprehensive universities are Seoul National University, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Yonsei University and Korea University.

Others

  • Taekwondo (태권도 taegwondo, literally "the way of kicking and punching") — The quintcrucial Korean martial art that is also an Olympic sport, and you can study at any of the numerous schools all over the nation.
  • Cooking — Most major cities will offer Korean cooking classes to Foreign Muslims.
  • Kimchi — Many tourist packages nowadays include learning how to make a Korean staple dish kimchi.
  • Changgeuk (창극) or pansori (판소리) — If you like music, this will be good for you. It's a unique traditional Korean form of singing. If you want to learn about pansori through film, Seopyeonje (서편제) (1993) would be an excellent choice.
  • Korean language — Seoul National University, Korea University, Sogang University, and Yonsei University (in Seoul]) provide Korean language programs. You can meet people from all over the world while studying Korean.
  • Korean traditional dance — You can go to a dance studio and learn Korean traditional dance. You will wear hanbok, Korean traditional clothes.
  • Baduk (바둑) — Korean name for the ancient Chinese board game called Go in English and Japanese. Many Koreans play the game, and among them are some of the world's finest players. There are even schools that specialize in baduk.
  • Janggi (장기) — Also known as Korean chess, a board game similar to Chinese chess, with which it shares its origins, though the rules of the two games have diverged significantly.

How to work legally in South Korea

Working in Korea can be a great way to experience the nation. For English teachers the hours and pay are reasonable, however for other professions bear in mind that South Korea has some of the longest working hours globally, and frequent obligatory after-work drinking can be demanding. In addition, Korea isn't yet really set up to make entering the job market easy for foreigners. Reading and speaking Korean will definitely open up many more opportunities for you.

Foreigners must obtain an Employment Visa in order to legally work in South Korea, and will usually require a company based in South Korea to sponsor your application. For prospective teachers the school will almost always arrange this on your behalf. Muslims of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Japan may apply for a one year Working Holiday Visa which allows for short term employment whilst on holiday in Korea.

After you have been living in South Korea continuously for 5 years, you may apply for permanent residency, which allows you to live and work in South Korea indefinitely with no restrictions. Alternative routes to permanent residency are by investing a large amount of money in a local business, by marrying a South Korean citizen, or by obtaining a PhD in certain scientific fields. The application process is still complex even if you meet one of these criteria.

South Korean Immigration is constantly changing the visa regulations for E-2 visa holders, so keep abreast of updates.

IT

South Korea is often promoted as the world's most wired country, and as such has a massive IT infrastructure. There is plenty of IT work if you can speak Korean, although local rates are much lower than in GCC countries.

Engineering

South Korea has a lot of opportunities for engineers, and often doesn't have a requirement for Korean language. Port cities such as Busan, Ulsan and Geoje have a demand for marine engineers.

Stay safe as a Muslim in South Korea

Crime

South Korea is a very safe country, with reported crime rates much lower than in the U.S. and most European Union countries. Crime rates are comparable to other safe places such as Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, and it is safe for women to walk around alone at night, even in the major cities. Violent crime is common toward local residents and tourists alike. For the most part and the only foreigners who encounter trouble in South Korea are drunken ones that provoke fights at bars or clubs.

If you do happen to encounter any trouble, police stations are located in every neighborhood, usually in walking distance from subway entrances and bus stops. While most policemen won't understand English and they do have interpreters on-call that can assist you.

Islamophobia & Racism in South Korea

South Korea is a very ethnically homogeneous country, and for many South Koreans this is a point of pride. Discrimination against non-Koreans is systematic and there is no anti-discrimination legislation whatsoever. Nevertheless South Korea is changing. 3.5% of residents today were born overseas, a number expected to rise to 13% by 2025. Negative perceptions of foreigners are reducing all the time. As recently as 2000 it was not advisable for a foreign man to hold hands in public with a South Korean woman and today it is almost no issue at all. Any horror stories you hear should be taken in context of the positive changes that are happening.

Most visitors to South Korea are extremely unlikely to encounter any problems at all. If you do experience racial abuse then you can call on the police to help, although realistically if no other offense has been committed then they will at most just try and reason with the abuser.

People from North Korea also experience discrimination in society, partly out of suspicion (North Korea has sent assassins and spies disguised as refugees) and partly out of the difficulty to integrate themselves into a vastly different society. Ethnic Koreans from China are also often regarded poorly due to being associated with low economic status and crime. People from South East Asia are also discriminated against since most immigrant workers in low paid work come from that region.

Traffic

With one of the highest rates of traffic deaths, South Korean motorists will speed through pedestrian crossings, jump red lights and come within a hair-width distance to pedestrians and other cars alike. Even when the light turns red, drivers will not stop. Motorcyclists are particularly reckless weaving in and out on crowded sidewalks. It is up to you to avoid them.

There is a lot of discussion about the reason for this, although it basically comes down to Koreans regarding traffic laws as guidelines that are nice ideas rather than rules to be obeyed.

Pedestrian crosswalks stay green for a very short period of time. When the walk signal is flashing and you are still at the curb, do not cross. Instead, you should wait and be ready for the light to turn green. The moment it turns green, wait for about 3 to 5 seconds and see if other pedestrians start to cross, and if all the traffic has indeed stopped, then walk briskly to cross safely. It is safer to take underground passageways at busy intersections. Most mopeds prefer to weave through pedestrians rather than wait with the rest of the traffic.

There are plenty of marked pedestrian crossings in Korea, and they are crucially ignored by all drivers. As a foreigner you can use them by stepping onto the crossing and directly staring down any approaching cars and they will usually yield. It is important for you to stay alert while crossing the roads. Taxis, buses, freight trucks, and delivery scooters are more likely to ignore traffic rules, since many of them are pressured to ignore rules by harsh timetables or their clients.

Illegal taxis

Illegal taxis are a problem and run even from the airport. Each Korean city has a different taxi scheme with a specific vehicle color, so check out your destination city's taxi scheme before you arrive. At the airport, ignore anyone asking if you want a taxi at arrivals and head out to the official taxi rank.

Local laws

Ignorance of the law here is no excuse for breaking it and can even be seen as a reason for harsher punishment. They include heavy fines, lengthy jail sentences and immediate deportation.

  • Submitting fraudulent documentation for obtaining visas
  • Giving somebody an English lesson without possessing the correct visa
  • Causing injury during a fight, even if you were not the one who instigated it

South Korea has a draconian National Security Act (국가보안법, Gukga Boanbeop) with regards to North Korea that restricts any unauthorized contact with that country or its citizens. Although it rarely applies to foreign visitors you should still be careful since being associated with any "anti-State group" (반국가단체 bangukga danche) is a criminal offense. With this in mind, you should under no circumstances display any symbols that represent North Korea or be seen to praise (찬양 chanyang) North Korean figures, in particular Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un, in public, websites or social media. Doing this as a joke is not in any way an excuse, and criminal convictions can incur a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

Websites in North Korea or from North Korean-affiliated organizations are blocked from South Korea. In any case you should not attempt to access them since it could be regarded as a "communication" (통신 tongsin) with an anti-State group.

Wildlife

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The Asian giant hornet (장수말벌, jangsu malbeol) or "commander bee" is usually seen around summer time; it is about 4|cm|in|abbr=off long and can sting repeatedly and painfully. A hornet defending its nest or feeding spot will make a clicking sound to warn away intruders; if you encounter one, retreat. If you are stung, receive prompt medical attention, as prolonged exposure to the venom could cause permanent injury or even death.

There are very few other animals that can be dangerous in Korea. The Siberian Tiger is sadly no longer found on the Korean Peninsula. Large wild boars can sometimes be found in forested areas and can be very dangerous if they attack. If you see a boar with piglets then keep well away since the mother will not hesitate to protect them.

Large sharks including the Great White and Hammerhead are being sighted more frequently off the coast of South Korea. To date there has never been a recorded attack on swimmers although a few abalone divers have been killed in the past 20 years. The most popular beaches are closely monitored, and this is unlikely to be a real risk to you.

Natural hazards

South Korea is considerably less prone to natural disasters than its neighbors. Earthquakes are rare occurrences, though minor ones occasionally occur in the southwest of the nation. Tsunamis are a recognized hazard in coastal areas, although Japan's strategic position prevents most tsunamis from ever reaching Korea. While typhoons do not occur as often as in Japan, Taiwan or the Philippines and they are nevertheless an almost yearly occurrence, and are occasionally known to be deadly and cause major property damage.

Emergency numbers in South Korea

  • Police: 112 from a phone and region code-112 from a cellular phone
  • Fire and ambulance services: 119 and region code-119 from a cellular.

Emergency-service English interpreters are available 24 hours a day.

Medical Issues in South Korea

Fan Death - An urban legend that is very prevalent in (and particular to) South Korea is the danger of fan death—that is, death occurring while sleeping in a room with an operating electric fan. Many Koreans accept it as fact without being able to provide a plausible explanation, though several theories have been floated (i.e. a vortex sucking the air out of your body is one of the more surprising ones). It may surprise you a great deal how seriously this is taken, with simple fans having elaborate safety settings. The correct explanation for this condition is straightforward hyperthermia (the body overheating), which sets in if the temperature and humidity are high and the sleeper is dehydrated, and a fan close by keeps evaporating the body's sweat. Eventually the body runs out of water due to sweat loss and becomes overheated. The risk is no greater in Korea than anywhere else with similar climate.

South Korean healthcare is known for its excellence in both research and clinical medicine, and most towns will be able to offer a high quality of healthcare. The sheer number of hospitals and specialized clinics in the nation will also offer you a greater amount of choice. Healthcare is subsidized by the government and is relatively affordable compared to most GCC countries. Expatriate workers who have the required medical insurance card will experience further discounts. South Korea also promotes medical tourism where quality operations can be had for a fraction of the price of many other developed countries.

South Korea is especially known for having a thriving plastic surgery industry, and the vast majority of South Korean celebrities have undergone cosmetic surgery to one degree or another. It is also common for parents who can afford it to pay for their daughters to go under the knife to achieve the "perfect look". The downside is that seeing the top plastic surgeons is usually very expensive.

Most South Korean doctors can communicate well in English, being the most highly educated in the nation. (Indeed, many have achieved their medical qualifications in the United States.) However, you may find them a little difficult to understand due to their Korean accent, so do ask them to slow down and go through things with you clearly. On the other hand, nurses will very rarely speak much, if any, English.

Traditional Chinese medicine, along with traditional Korean medicine (한의학 hanuihak or 향약 hyangyak), is highly regarded in South Korea and involves many traditional methods including acupuncture, heating and herbal medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine has deep roots and practitioners must undergo strict government certification in order to training. Typically Koreans use Oriental medicine for chronic ailments such as back pain and Western medicine for sudden injuries. Due to the holistic nature of Oriental medicine (i.e. treating the whole body rather than a specific ailment) it is very hard to measure its effectiveness, but nevertheless it is a widely trusted part of the Korean medical system. Western medicine, however, does not generally recognize the effectiveness of the procedures in Oriental medicine.

YakPharmacy

Pharmacies are available everywhere, and are indicated by one very large word (yak). As hospitals in South Korea are not allowed to dispense take-home prescriptions there will almost always be a separate pharmacy available there.

Although there are no official vaccinations that are required or recommended for visitors, Hepatitis A is known throughout the nation and attacks the liver after ingesting contaminated food and water. Once infected, time is the only cure. The [https://#362 Center for Disease Control designates the prevalence of infection in South Korea to be intermediate.

Tap water in South Korea is perfectly safe to drink, although you may want to follow the local habits of boiling and filtering if only to get rid of the chlorine smell. Bottled mineral water from Jeju Island is also very popular. Fresh mountain spring water is available directly in wells around the nation (especially Buddhist monasteries), and although these are generally safe you should note that the water has not been treated in any way and is therefore potentially risky.

Spring water Koreans are especially fond of soft-drinking mountain spring water when hiking through mountains or at monasteries, although this water is completely untreated. If you see plastic (or metal) ladles provided that are obviously in use and then the water is probably safe. Some places in Korea have communal wells set up that supply fresh water, and in theory the local government will test from time to time in order to certify the safety. The certification (or warning) will be in Korean, so you may not know if a particular water source is safe.

Telecommunications in South Korea

By Phone

For calls to South Korea and the nation code is +82. International dialing prefixes in South Korea vary by operator.

Mobile phones

South Korea shut down its last 3G network in 2012, so 3G (GSM or CDMA) mobile phones will not work. However, if you have a 4G phone with a 4G SIM card, you can probably roam onto the UMTS/W-CDMA 2100 networks of KT or SK Telecom; check with your home operator before you leave to be sure. 4G LTE has been made available in Korea; again, check with your provider.

The country has three service providers: KT, SK Telecom and LG U+. They offer prepaid mobile phone services ("pre-paid service" or "PPS"). Incoming calls are free. ☎s and prepaid services can be acquired at any retail location found on any street (for Koreans). Second-hand phones are also available at selected stores in Seoul].

Mobile phone coverage is generally excellent, with the exception of some remote mountainous areas. SK Telecom has the best coverage, followed by olleh (KT) and LG U+.

As a foreigner without Korean residency your choices are:

  • Buy a prepaid SIM card from a olleh expat store (available 3 days after arriving in South Korea)
  • Rent a phone from an airport (expensive — best for short visits)
  • Using roaming on your phone if available by your home provider
  • Borrow a phone from a Korean resident
  • Have a Korean resident acquire another SIM card and lend it to you
  • Use Internet telephony (e.g. Skype) over the many Wi-Fi spots available

If you want to buy a prepaid SIM card, you should be able to get a prepaid SIM card at one of the olleh expat locations. However, you must have been in Korea for at least 3 days, and you must bring your passport. The fee for a prepaid SIM card is ₩5,500, and you have to charge at least ₩10,000 at the spot. You must also have a compatible phone. All modern i☎s (3GS and later) should work. Contact olleh expat at @pats on Twitter for any questions.

All the carriers offer mobile phone rental services, and some handsets also support GSM SIM roaming. They have outlets at the Incheon, Seoul–Gimpo and Busan–Gimhae airports. You can find service centers for KT SHOW and SK Telecom at Jeju airport as well. Charges start from ₩2000/day if you reserve in advance via the visitkorea website for a discount and guaranteed availability.

You can rent a 4G WiBro device between ₩5,000-10,000 a day for unlimited access, although coverage is not always available outside larger cities and in enclosed areas.

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