Most foreigners don’t realize that the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) has programs and services in place to help expats. I certainly didn’t. If I hadn’t started researching it, I would have continued to assume that there would be nothing I could do if I somehow landed myself in the middle of a violent crime. Violence, crimes and other dangers have never really crossed my mind since living in the safest country on Earth. I did think once briefly about criminal activity in Korea when my ex-boss told me in a very serious tone that I should make sure I was always home by 8pm every night because I am a woman and Korean streets are riddled with criminals ready to pounce on ‘vulnerable’, 183cm tall foreign women. I gave his advice about three seconds of thought and then immediately dismissed it as the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. In any case, despite the impossibility of the above situation happening, I did hear that bike theft is pretty common.
Whatever the reason, the KNPA is at your aid. The KNPA offers three basic services for foreigners: emergency crime response, foreigner assistance centers and information/crime prevention awareness for foreigners.
Emergency Crime Response: CALL 112
The Assistance Center for Foreigners (ACF)
There are 294 ACFs operated by the KNPA. These centers provide resources, and counseling. You can also report crimes that are not emergencies here. They offer service in multiple languages including English, Chinese and Japanese. Check the website for locations and information (Korean only).
Counseling is offered for:
Reporting a Crime:
Crimes in Korea
Every country has different laws regarding crime. In some respects Korean law is strict. For example, drug possession is considered a serious criminal act. You’ll get years in jail if you are caught with drugs. At the same time, the police couldn’t give two shakes of their batons over public drunkenness. The KNPA is aware that foreigners might not be accustomed to Korean law so they have provided information about basic rules that apply in Korea.
Serious crimes will be treated more severely if:
You must obtain a permit to carry weapons such as guns, knives and spears. You can be imprisoned for over five years and/or you might have to pay a fine of over 10 million KRW if you get caught breaking this law.
Gambling is illegal for Korean nationals. It is not illegal for foreigners to go to casinos but you must show ID at the door. It is illegal to play mah-jong (from China), Hi-Lo (from Thailand), Socdia (from Vietnam), Poker or Hwatu for property. It is not permitted to run small underground gambling operations.
It is illegal to sell or give banking information to a third party over the phone. You may not operate cash withdrawal sales schemes or engage is fraud through telemarketing.
Taking a bike from the side of the road is considered theft even if it’s not locked up.
Use a foreign exchange bank to make overseas remittances. It’s a serious crime if you don’t.
All people, including foreigners over the age of 17 must carry ID at all times (passport, ARC, home ID card). You’ll be fined if you’re caught without one.
Fines will be issued for:
Tips from the KNPA
The KNPA gives some basic tips regarding difference areas of criminal activity. Although some of these tips may remind you of the stuff you learned in elementary school, it’s always nice to have a refresher. The numbers and links could come in handy.
à See the article Women’s Health and Safety in Korea for more information.
Korean National Police Agency Headquarters
Lindsey lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea for over 5 years. While there, she dabbled in different areas of work and explored the culture. She spent time teaching elementary students, business English to adults and high school students about college preparation. She also studied Korean, wrote blogs and tasted as many foods as she possibly could including fermented skate fish. Over the years, Lindsey developed a love for Korea and the culture. She is keen to share her knowledge of Korea with others and she will always consider Korea a second home.