Public Safety and the Korean Police Force

Category : Surviving in Korea
Nov 28, 2014

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.


  1. There were 101,108 police officers on duty in 2011. The Commissioner General is Ki-Yong Kim.
  2. The KNPA is run by the Ministry of Administration and Security.
  3. The KNPA is a national wide policy agency that has jurisdiction over all of Korea. All the local branches remain under the umbrella of the KNPA. There are no separate municipal police agencies.
  4. In 1945 the national policy agency was established by the US military.


Emergency Crime Response: CALL 112

  1. Call 112 if you are caught in the middle of a crime!
  2. Ask for English to be transferred directly to an English speaker.
  3. Tell the operator where you are, when the crime happened and what is was.
  4. Give as much information as you can such as the appearance and actions of parties involved, license plate numbers, descriptions of the events and whereabouts of the perpetrator(s) at the time of calling.
  5. 112 can be called for free from any phone (cell, landline, payphone).
  6. If you’re calling from a payphone press the red emergency call button first, then dial 112.
  7. Don’t touch the crime or attempt to change or hide evidence. Doing so is a crime too.
  8. Cooperate with police. Tell them honestly what you know. Don’t lie or elaborate on events.
  9. Please see the article on Emergency Helplines in Korea.


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:

  1. Problems related to cultural differences and language barriers
  2. Problems arising in the workplace such as exploitation of foreign workers and wage misappropriation
  3. People who have witnessed a crime or been the victim of criminal activities



  1. They have a mobile counseling van. A counselor can come to you.
  2. You can email or phone for advice rather than visiting a location
  3. They can provide information about human rights authorities if your situation is beyond the jurisdiction of the KNPA.


Reporting a Crime:

  1. First go to an ACF in your area.
  2. File a formal report.
  3. Your report will be forwarded to the foreign affairs police who deal with foreigners.
  4. It is then processed by the appropriate organization and you will be contacted with results.


  1. Criminal activities are handled by the KNPA.
  2. Civil matters such as labor law violations or residential problems are forwarded to the Ministry of Labor, the Minister of Gender Equality and Family or the Ministry of Justice .


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:

  1. It’s a repeat offense.
  2. It was committed in a group of two or more.
  3. It was done through collective force or threat.
  4. There was a weapon was involved.
  5. It was done by organized criminals.
  6. It was premeditated.



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.


Telephone Fraud

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.


Overseas remittances

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:

  1. Littering
  1. Spitting in public
  2. Urinating in public
  3. Smoking in non-smoking areas
  4. Riding a motorized vehicle without a helmet including
  5. Jaywalking


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.


Domestic Violence

  1. Seek support through women’s centers, global centers and counseling services.

à See the article Women’s Health and Safety in Korea for more information.

  1. Immediately seek help if you experience domestic violence of any nature.
  2. Try to collect evidence for the police (photographs of injuries/damages, medical records, threatening phone conversations or emails).



Child Abduction/Disappearance

  1. Call 182 to report a missing child.
  2. Visit the Website for missing persons, violence against women and children.
  3. Education your child about abduction and teach them to be wary of strangers.
  4. Teach kids to shout if they are in danger and to run to nearby authorities like shops or restaurants for help.
  5. Teach kids their full name, address, age, parent’s names and telephone numbers.
  6. Make sure you kids know to inform you (parent/guardian) of their whereabouts.


School Violence

  1. This is a broad category but it includes bullying, damage done to school property, and physical and emotional violence between students, parents and teachers.
  2. Parents and teachers should encourage friendly relationships between students. As well they are responsible to promote safe learning environments. Bullying in the classroom must not be tolerated.
  3. If a violent act does happen, it’s important to get information from students who witnessed the incident. Try to find out what happened and why.


Sex Crimes

  1. 117 is the emergency line for sex crimes.
  2. Visit the website for missing persons, violence against women and children.
  3. Call the support center for immigrant women, 1577-1366 or visit the website. It has many foreign languages. Click ‘the Pilipino flag’ for English.
  4. Call the Korean Family Law consultation center, 1644-7077 or visit the website.
  5. Visit a One-Stop Support Center if a child is a victim.
  6. Sex crimes should be dealt with promptly. Seek out police authority immediately.
  7. Professionalism should be upheld in the workplace. If you feel uncomfortable, speak up and instill that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated.
  8. Read about Sexual Harassment in the Korean Workplace.
  9. Teach kids about physical contact and what is acceptable and what is not.
  10. Record and keep all evidence like physical injuries and keep clothes in a paper bag. Preserve the crime scene.



  1. Fair Trade Commission: Website
  2. Mutual Aid Cooperative and Consumer (Compensation for Consumer Damages): Website, 02-566-1202
  3. Korea Special Sales Financial Cooperative Associations: Website (Korean only), 02-2058-0831
  4. Information about online fraud: Net-Durumi (Korean only)
  5. Reporting online fraud: Netan
  6. Be wary of persons seeking personal information or demanding cash transfers.
  7. Do not make direct transfers between individuals online. Make sure you are buying from a verified business or organization.
  8. Get the police involved if a party makes questionable demands or if they are claiming to be from a reputable company or public branch. Verify their identification.



  1. Wear your bag across your body and keep the main compartment in front where you can see it.



Korean National Police Agency Headquarters

  1. Phone: 182
  2. Website
  3. Address: 97, Tongil-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, Korea
  4. Directions: Located directly across across the street from Seoul Station (subway line 1 and 4)


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Tags : Korea. Safety. Police. Seoul.

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.