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Crime, Safety, and Danger in Korea

October 18, 2012

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Wow! It feels like forever since we filmed this video! We made it before we went on our Mexico/California trip, because we planned on putting some stuff up while we were gone. Turns out that we put up our Mexico trip video instead, and wanted to save this (and another) video for the week when we got back from our trips, when we’d be jet-lagged and exhausted. Hooray! Turns out that it’s actually quite good timing, because now we’re getting over some nasty pink-eye as well, and if we had to film something now we’d look like vampires: not the sexy, True Blood kind, with pushup bras and six packs. More like, the dirty, just got turned into a vampire kind, with our eyes glowing red from hunger for blood. Except our eyes would be glowing red from pink-eye.

Side note: having pink eye makes looking at the screen as we type very, very difficult, so we’re typing most of this with our eyes closed. WE GOT SICK WICKED TYPING SKILLLLZZZZ. At the same time, if we have a lot of errors here, forgive us. We’re not really doing a lot of editing in our blog post this time.

Aaaaanyhow, CRIME IN KOREA! I think we mentioned before how completely safe we feel here compared to how we feel back in Toronto. Again, we don’t want to make it seem that because we feel so safe here that we didn’t feel safe in Toronto, or that anyone should draw the conclusion that because Korea feels safer to us that Toronto is a wild jungle of crime and murder and mugging. That’s not the case at all. We lived perfectly fine and content in Toronto. We just feel like there are things we don’t have to worry about here in Korea like we did in Toronto. Here in Korea, we haven’t seen any Rob-Me-Please ATMs. Don’t know what those are? Those are ATM machines in public that you feel like, well, maybe taking money out at this spot right here…maybe that isn’t the best idea. We don’t see vandalism here in Korea as well. Graffiti is barely anywhere. Things aren’t broken or smashed randomly. And we just never hear about gun-crime in the news, like a random person going into the mall and shooting it up. Sure, that’s exceptionally rare in Canada as well, but here in Korea, we just never hear about it at all.

I hope Canadians don’t get offended by this. We’re not trying to paint it in a negative light, though its contrast with Korea might make it seem that way. We still love Canada and all. We feel a lot safer in cars in Canada and don’t feel like we’re going to get mowed down every time we cross the street, like we do in Korea. And we’re sure there’s organized crime here in Korea that’s mega-nasty. We…just haven’t experienced anything like it at all here, and haven’t even seen traces of it in public.

Yeah! Hopefully that made sense. And if we said anything off, we blame the pink-eye! Also, we’re sure that your experiences are muuuuch different than ours, so let us know in the comments what your experiences in Korea or in your home country are like. Our own personal experiences are by no means definitive, but hopefully we can get a bunch of people here talking about what their experiences are like :D

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Crime, Safety, and Danger in Korea

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  1. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately, so I’m glad you talked about it! When I first mentioned my desire to go to Korea a few years ago, my parents were really worried. I was like 18 at the time and they thought Korea wasn’t very safe. They even encouraged me to go backpacking through Europe instead, which I now find funny, because I’ve heard how safe Korea is (and we’ve also seen the movie Taken, so now my parents are paranoid about Europe xD).

    Honestly, sometimes I get really worried about my safety here. I live in Colorado, which a lot of people have probably heard about this summer. A gunman shot up a theater full of people at a midnight movie showing, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others. They say he would’ve killed many more but his gun jammed. Not only that, but recently a little 11-year-old girl named Jessica Ridgeway went missing. There were posters of her up everywhere and everyone was talking about her. My work (I work at a Target deli) even made sandwiches and coffee for a team of volunteers who were out looking for her. Unfortunately, they found her body and we couldn’t save her. They are also saying there have been other disappearances or attempted kidnappings. The kidnapping of Jessica happened in my city, and I actually live in a pretty safe area! I have a friend who lives in a bad neighborhood and they hear gunshots every night. She said they have neighborhood kids who are like 10 and come and smoke weed in front of her house. By contrast, we leave our house unlocked, even when we all go out for a few hours. Even so, I’ve always been taught to be careful and wary of strangers. If I’m out late walking and I see a stranger coming along, my guard goes up. I always have to wonder if this could be someone who would hurt me or even possibly rape me. I don’t like having to be suspicious of people who probably would never do anything like that, but I know it’s necessary to always stay on your guard and be ready.

    Lately I can say I’ve been getting more and more concerned about my safety. People are getting very worked up about politics these days, and I fear one day a bunch of people might just snap. I think it would be nice to live in a place where I didn’t really have to be afraid. Korea sounds really nice in that way. I also think it would be nice to someday raise my own children in a place where I don’t have to worry they might get kidnapped and murdered like poor Jessica Ridgeway, or shot up in a movie theater. Even though these happenings are rare, they still make me worry.

    3 years ago
    • I live in Colorado too, I work and grew up in the town that Jessica was taken. I’m moving to Korea in a month to teach, and while Colorado has had some terrible things happen this year, I hope that you try not to be afraid :/

      3 years ago
  2. Haha I remember learning about the Wolverine thing during high school. In contrast, I haven’t heard anyone I know being egged in Toronto or the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Though, I think my area is pretty safe as well. Super Junior!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    3 years ago
  3. I think Japan is safe … at least from what my teacher told me…and an elder classmate ^^ He once lost his wallet and when he went back the other day to try and find it, it was laying on the spot where it fell the day before xD And my teacher once did an experiment like that with same results (she only used something different than a wallet)…
    I am not sure if it’s really safe but, from what I heard ,Japan seems to be safe.
    Maybe it’s the same as Korea when talking about safety…

    Well, at least it is much more safer than my country. Even during the day I watch out for any suspicious people -.- I don’t even go out during the night…

    3 years ago
  4. I’m from Lithuania and two weeks ago i finally joined our Korean Culture Club (which is going to be changed into an official Center in a couple of months). and I was already told many stories about the korean exchange students comming here. (our club takes care of them, helps them, tries to introduce them to our own culture, etc.) the main complaint that I heard from most of our old-members was that Koreans just Keep Loosing their belongings. like constantly. one lost his phone, the other his wallet, other even his passport. though my guess is that they didn’t loose them, as in left them somewhere, but they got them stolen. pick-pocketing is rather widely spread here and since these students came here from a country where such things barely exist, they must have become victims of this type of crime wthout knowing it.

    i guess it’s much better to grow up in an enviroment where you know how to be alert of possible crimes, than in an almost absolutely crime-free enviroment. i mean this becomes useful if you move to a country which is the other way around in this sphere than yours.

    3 years ago
  5. You mean I DON’T need a rape whistle and pepper spray wherever I go in Korea? And I DON’T need to worry about wearing red or blue in certain areas? LOL

    3 years ago
  6. I always felt safe walking around in Korea and left my purse in my seat while off elsewhere with no problems. That said, I had money stolen out of my guesthouse room while we were sleeping (There was a small outer room with a bathroom and a storage place, and a larger interior sleeping room – they broke into the outer room, but didn’t come into the room where we were actually asleep), and had an ipod stolen out of my backpack (while I was wearing it) – I suspect at least the latter crime was committed by a foreigner.

    However, a friend of mine had three or four bicycles stolen from the entryway of our officetel by high school students (I saw them hanging around, looking at the lock on the last bike one day). Also, some of the kids from school stole our enormous iron school sign to sell for scrap. I have no idea how they got the bolts out of the concrete, but it was too heavy to carry away all the words – they only got one before we caught them.

    So there is petty theft, vandalism (especially if you count graffiti), but very little visible violent crime. There is a fair bit of domestic violence, but a foreigner is not terribly likely to deal with that personally.

    Just my two cents.

    3 years ago
    • Hi Jolene, I’ll be going to South Korea soon and staying in a guesthouse as well. I’m just wondering whether your belongings locked
      up when the money was stolen out of your belongings? I was going to
      bring in my bag with any cash I had into the sleeping quarters and keep
      it close to me (like under my pillow).

      3 years ago
  7. thank you for covering this issue! maybe this will put my family and friends more at rest when I finally do move to Korea.

    3 years ago
  8. Women traffic and forced prostitution are still endemic in Korea. But I’ve never heard of the “mafia” operating by kidnapping foreign children in the streets!

    3 years ago
    • The thing is, if a child gets kidnapped in korea, people think “the parents must be rich and want a ransom” not “the child must be used for pedos and cannibals” I mean, why on earth a kidnappers want a noisy child that’s not even their own?

      3 years ago
  9. I thought Korean gangsters were kkangpae?

    3 years ago
  10. Hahaha…Sounds about how I felt when I lived in Okinawa. I would be completely drunk off my face, I would be alone, and it would be 2am. Still felt pretty damn safe compared to the States….And to definitely here in Turkey. D: I don’t even feel safe going out with a group, completely sober, and in the afternoon.

    3 years ago
  11. so let me get this straight…is it safe for me to be a criminal in Korea?…What do you mean that’s not the point?

    3 years ago
  12. I live in Winnipeg which is apparently the murder capital (per capita). Everyday there seems to be news on a new shooting/murder/pedo getting released. Korea sounds billions of times safer. Hell, I even live in a better’ neighbourhood and still got chased 4 blocks by a drunk guy and it wasnt even that late :/

    3 years ago
  13. We just moved back from Korea after living there a few years with the U.S. military. I felt it was the safest place I’ve ever been. I grew up in a small town where no one locked their doors and it still did not feel as safe as Korea. I would love to move back and stay forever so I would not have to worry about my children’s safety. It seemed so strange when we first got there and saw 5 yr old children walking alone to school down the street from their home. I would never in a million years let my son walk home from school and he is 6. Can’t trust people here in America like that.

    3 years ago
    • I live outside Washington DC, and I still see little kids walking home by themselves from school. I don’t know what’s wrong with people. I know far too many kids that ended up as victims to ever feel safe letting a child of mine do that. Actually, I know enough minors that were raped and assaulted that if I ever have kids I will probably end up watching them like a hawk, and feel terrified every time they leave my sight.

      3 years ago
  14. Here is a overview from a more formal point of view (US Dept of State): https://www.osac.gov/Pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=12050

    A lot could be contextual safety – very safe in the day to day normal activities, but less if you go places where the shadier things happen, or esp. if you git involved in the unsavory activities directly.

    3 years ago
  15. OH – and Simon’s shirt is soooo gangsta! Gotta have an eye out for care bears with ill intentions.

    3 years ago
  16. In Korea, what jobs/careers may foreigners have/be able to do, besides teaching? This was asked before and I was hoping it would have been chosen so I want to ask it again in hopes of this question being picked.

    3 years ago
    • Kay

      I see a lot of postings for 3d artist jobs in Korea for non-koreans who can speak English as least. So if you are good at what you do in the other countries, korean companies want you there as well! Bunch of modeling jobs as well… best way to live in korea would be work as foreign consultants, if you don’t want to be a teacher. Like… if you see global companies, check to see if they have korean branch, etc.

      3 years ago
    • Leo

      Koreans are very serious about their education. There’s more than a surplus of qualified to-be employees (yes, that even includes the lowest of the low jobs in terms of pay, janitor and clerks and various other similar jobs). So the only jobs that foreigners have a remote chance with is English teaching. Unless you are fluent in Korean, you will just be competing with the natives for jobs then. Of course, that’s incredibly difficult since they’ll be like, “What’re you doing here foreigner? We don’t need to start conflict in our job environment by hiring a foreigner.”

      3 years ago
    • How about job opportunities in Communication Design?

      3 years ago
    • I’m also still curious about this, but regarding jobs in the entertainment/media industry in Korea.

      3 years ago
    • Unless you are a fluent Korean speaker and are filling some kind of international role, I don’t think the prospects are very good.

      3 years ago
    • Yeah. From what we heard, it’s really quite difficult…

      3 years ago
    • Unless you’re a wanted specialist in a certain field, not many. I doubt you can go just for a normal desk-job, for example.

      3 years ago
  17. How does Korea handle health insurance? How expensive is it, compared to other countries?

    3 years ago
  18. I was just partying in Toronto for the weekend, and the only trouble that came my way was in the form of spilled beer on my pants by a drunkard who had a bit too much. Of course, after apologizing profusely (as we Canadians do) and offering to by me a drank, all was forgotten. It’s kind of nice to hear that you guys feel relatively safe where you are, because I’m planning a trip to SK to visit my friend in Ansan (obviously we’ll be hitting up other places as well), but still… takes the edge off. :)

    P.S. I used to be one of those rebellious teens blasting rambunctious music outside of Timmies when I was in high school… Oh man. If only I could erase 2005 from my memories haha

    3 years ago
  19. Also, one random story of when I was in Korea. A friend and I stayed with a host family and we all went out for some Korean BBQ one night in Hanok Village (Jeonju, SK) and there were some foreigners (like us) who were totally wasted out of their minds at a street food stall. They saw us and were all, “Aww hey whatupp girls? Come and drink with us!” A total “Ooh hay gurl lemme buy you a drank” moment. Our host family was horrified because they had never seen drunk people call out to strangers like that before, but we explained it to them and they were like “Omo. So rude. I can’t beweive it!” Haha.

    3 years ago
  20. This made me think about safety in my country…and here it’s bad, really bad! 4 months ago police found part of human body in a bush under my window ;__; I wish my country was a lot more like Korea.

    3 years ago
    • Croatia…well it’s not like there are dead people found every day, but lately there have been more and more murders, people disappear, there was big scandal when mexican tourist was brutally killed. I don’t even watch news anymore. I was never afraid to walk alone at night on streets until this year. :(

      3 years ago
  21. How does Korea handle health insurance?

    3 years ago
    • http://askakorean.blogspot.ca/2010/01/healthcare-system-in-korea.html
      It’s universal health care..very similar to Canada’s.
      Korea is not perfect but Korean health care system definitely ROCKS and it’s one of the best in the world.

      3 years ago
      • As a foreigner, unless you have
        national insurance provided by your employer/university, it can be expensive.
        For Koreans, the things that are really expensive, such as Cancer treatments,
        are not covered by the universal health system and are known to bankrupt
        families. Also, Korean doctors are known for over-medicating and giving courses
        antibiotics for virtually anything. I personally don’t trust them, and would be
        inclined to see a Western doctor at Severance Hospital.

        3 years ago
  22. I was thinking about this theme… it’s very weird to me, cause here at Chile is very easy that someone assault you on the streets if you are not alert. Thanks for the video! ^^
    I don’t know f you guy talked about this before, but I want to know how is the Korean health system…

    3 years ago
  23. I’ve never been to Korea (hoping to someday) but I was in China last year. I spent time in 10 cities, mostly in the northern region, and I must say everyone was super nice. The only time we experienced crime was in Bejing while sight-seeing. Two men tried to rob us. Luckily, we were able to get agressive with them and we ran away without them chasing after us. On a side note – my favorite city was MaAnshan.
    I live in Phoenix, AZ. Crime here is so so. I’ve lived here 19 years, so I’ve learned the do’s and dont’s. Due to our proximity to the Mexican border there is much drug/people smuggling going on. The zip code I live in is #1 in the USA for identity theft. The saddest part is, due to the open border many people, mostly Mexican people, are getting hurt. Sad but true. And most the hard-core drug gangs are from central America.
    BUT, after all, I like living here. People are kind and generous and the weather is superb from Oct. – May! (there is no winter here!) AND there is a great blend of people from all over the world, so the food is great! There are a few great Korean places, and TONS of middle eastern (may fave food) places to eat! Okay, I’m getting off topic and hungry. Adios!

    3 years ago
  24. i should move to Korea and be one of your friends from ENGLAND!!!!!!! (weird thing to say i know!!!)
    seriously i should totally tell my parents to move to Korea cos it’s safer then here!!! my mom is one of those moms who are constantly way too worried for their children, she’s SO scared of the world!! haha!!! aww!! she just doesn’t like us being out in the dark and stuff!!! (me too though, you should see the area i live in….not nice)
    wow i’d love to walk around at night not feeling scared!! so i’m guessing you definitely don’t smell weed around in random areas?
    and eewww i hate seeing used condoms, ‘specially in school!!

    3 years ago
  25. One thing though. I don’t think Korea will be more rebellious and the crime rate go up. I mean, it’s more like the crime rate has been going down and down till what they have now.
    This episode is hilarious!

    3 years ago
  26. I actually feel safe…ish when walking around in Chicago, but of course, it’s a certain part of Chicago and I’m never alone… and I’ve only been in Chicago at night, like, twice. xD And this is despite the “flash mob” attacks by teenagers and such. I just feel like I don’t look vulnerable/weak, so no one really wants to mess with me. Plus, I’m a big girl, so it’d be difficult to kidnap me. Lawl.

    In Korea, it was just awkward walking around with the drunks late at night and during the day. They were more likely to approach us in our personal spaces, and… they did. xD;; One man got all up in my sister’s face with his finger pointing at her at Busan’s train station for some reason. He didn’t even say anything, so it was weird and kind of hilarious – not so much for my sister. So yeah, I only felt nervous, but I never felt like I was ever in possible danger. When I was a kid (4-6 years old) in Korea, though, I must’ve felt super safe because there were plenty of times when I just walked into random people’s homes and shops by myself in different towns/cities – not just my home town. I think about it now and think I totally lucked out in not being abducted. ^^;;; But maybe that’s accredited to Korea’s safety?

    3 years ago
  27. Another danger I noticed is no one buckles up in the back seats of cars. So dangerous..

    3 years ago
    • People HOLD their infants in the front seats while they drive around. THAT scares me…I wonder if they’re not a culture that enforces car seats for infants/toddlers/children.

      3 years ago
  28. HAHAHAHHAHAAHHA THE THING ABOUT THE TIMMIES CARS AND GANGS IS SO TRUE. So ridiculous. “Look at me and mah donuts, so g”. I live in the GTA, and I don’t feel safe at all. I’m going to Yonsei next year, so hopefully I’ll feel much safer in Korea :3!

    3 years ago
  29. You talked a lot about kids/teenagers and safety, but not much about skeevy adults. I know that a lot of times I’ll cross the street to avoid especially shady looking beggars/homeless people/loiterers because I don’t feel safe. Do you find that there are fewer of those in Korea?

    3 years ago
    • Yes. Homeless people in Korea are harmless. Also unless you actually know where they live/hang out your interaction with them is very limited unlike other big cities (Europe/North America)

      3 years ago
    • There were homeless people there when i was there (i came back about 2 weeks ago?) and i mainly saw a few in Seoul. Not to the extent that i see them in NYC, but i didn’t go everywhere. While we were there, i only “met” one guy who gave me the not good shivers, and we out walked him. lol.

      3 years ago
  30. Thanks for answering this guys! I felt super safe when I was in Japan, but I was wondering if it was the same in Korea.
    I admire your tenacity, doing this for us when you’re sick. Please get better soon. Pink eye sucks.

    3 years ago
  31. Hey you two!! I just wanna say y’all are amazing! You guys have me laughing so hard at almost every vid you post!! Thank you for the levity! By far you guys are my fave peeps to follow!!

    3 years ago
  32. It’s like you know my life! Taking off for Korea literally right now.

    3 years ago
  33. Only because you type faster than me. :D great comment!

    3 years ago
  34. Great video!~ I loved Simon’s shirt, haha.

    3 years ago
  35. How did you prepare for moving to Korea? How much money did you have to put aside? I’m really curious about that. Please reply to this question.

    3 years ago
  36. Yeah, in the U.S we have a lot of graffiti, though its mostly on abandoned buildings and usually only in the poorer parts of town, at least it is in Connecticut. We have a lot of gun crimes too, especially after the Batman movie shooting, but aside from that there’s really nothing else. And I haven’t seen a Rob-Me-Please ATM yet, but I’ll be on the lookout, lol.

    3 years ago
  37. The Wolverine key thing! I totally do that.

    3 years ago
    • Ha! It seems like a lot of people do that. We didn’t know it was such a common thing :D

      3 years ago
      • They teach you in
        first year University… at least they did at Wilfred Laurier ^^ I’m from
        Vancouver but when I went to Ontario they taught us that >.< for the
        first few months I walked all over Waterloo with keys in my hands terrified… I
        didn’t have to be lol everyone was so nice ^^

        3 years ago
      • Yeah I learned to do that too in my rape defense class in high school

        3 years ago
  38. I just came back from a long vacation in SK. I felt super super safe there, and when i go back (hopefully soon lol), i will not be worried about going there alone.

    3 years ago
  39. wow coincidentally, I was just wondering about this the other day haha

    3 years ago
  40. I wish I could feel that safe here in Brazil. I just bought a new phone and I’m afraid to leave the house with it :-P

    3 years ago
    • I live in São Paulo and have only lived here, so I can’t talk about Rio de Janeiro (although I don’t think it’s so different). I don’t even know how the security will be in 2 years, but, well, let’s talk about how it is now:

      When walking in the street, if you’re a woman it’s good to always hold your purse like in your shoulder. If you carry it unconcernedly, swinging it in your hand, probably someone will just pass by running and steal it hahaha
      When in the bus or subway, watch out pockets from purses that may not be turned to you, someone can quietly open it and steal something as well.
      If you’re in a cafe or any place like that, don’t leave your things in a table to go somewhere, carry it with you unless there’s someone you know that will be there to watch out.
      Clothes too, if you’re wearing those showy necklaces, rings… :)
      Of course there are neighborhoods that are safer than others, but this is complicated and actually you can even find favela and richness in the same neighborhood, so in this case my warning is to trust your feelings :)

      So there’s no need to be neurotic with it hahaha just be aware and you’ll be fine. I’m 21 and have been robbed just once. By kids :/ (although that may sound ridiculous, but there were 4 of them and I couldn’t see if they’re carrying a gun)
      Other brazilians, if you remember more things, please!

      3 years ago
    • Well, it’s not like if you’re walking on the street here you will be robbed for sure, see favelas and stuff like that. I live in a normal neighborhood here in Rio and I never experienced something like being robbed, never stepped on a favela before and I always see people holding iPhones on the buses all the time. You just have to watch out the areas that you’re going. If you have any other doubts you can ask :)

      3 years ago
      • Look, I live in Brazil, but I live in Rio Grande do Sul, in the south of
        the country (look in the map). Over here we don’t have that kind of
        violence, I never experienced something like that, and I really don’t
        like to know that Brazil give this image to the foreigner people….. I
        feel realy bad about that… The thing is, you can’t go out (crazily)
        showing everybody that you have a phone or notebook (etc), just be
        careful with your things and that’s all. And, at least in my city, we
        don’t see favelas or police, crazy war people and guns, I never saw
        something like that…. So…

        3 years ago
        • Just, the important thing it’s to be careful and don’t look like you have no idea about were are you going and look like you are lost, or looking like you are not paing atention to the people that are around you.
          You have to look like you live here or know about Brazil and behave with confidence. I think that if you look lost or if you look like you are not paing atention, you can be a potencial target for robbers or even some guy that could try to sell you something unreasonably expensive….

          3 years ago
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