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At first, this may seem like a strange question.  But if you remember that this is a South Korea, or the Republic of Korea, and a North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, you may actually wonder about this.  If you don’t remember, an armistice agreement was never signed, meaning the Korean War never actually ended.  Also, many countries will show you the positive sides of their country, while editing out the negative sides of their country.

While statistics may paint a picture of what’s happening in an area, you can still feel uneasy in an area.  For instances, I’ve been to some of the roughest parts of cities like New Orleans, New York, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., St.Louis and Kansas City, to name a few.  For some of these cities, crime was dropping according to statistics, but it still felt uneasy.  So how does South Korea rank on my nervousness scale?  Here are a few things I have thought about.

Did I Feel Nervous Walking Around at Night?

No.  when I say walking around at night, I mean walking around after midnight.  One time, I was walking on some back streets of Gangnam.  Areas where if I were hit by a car, no one would have notice until the next day.  Another time, it was about 0200 KST, or 2:00 a.m. and I was walking with a friend from one apartment to his apartment in North Seoul.  This meant walking through a field with no lights and going near a subway station.  In both cases, I never feared for my safety, even though I would have been extra cautious in that situation in North America.  I have heard stories of women who have walked by themselves in similar situations, and they have also felt safe being alone.

Did I Feel Nervous About Taking Public Transportation in South Korea?

No.  I am caution about public transportation, especially subways, since a pickpocket stole from me one night on a New York subway.  Still, I didn’t have any fear of being robbed or assaulted while on the subway.  I also didn’t have to deal with people staring at me or making fun of me while on the subway as some suggested may happen.  This was despite the fact that I was wearing dark sunglasses and looked like a bodyguard while on the subway.  People, for the most part, just minded their own business and life went on as normal.

Did I See Fights or Acts of Violence While Walking Around South Korea?

No. I did walk around everyday I was in South Korea, which is the norm for many people.  This questions is interesting because South Korea is known for its drinking culture.  It is legal to walk around in public and drink alcohol.  While “liquid courage” can bring out the worst in people, I never saw any fighting or arguing while in Korea.  Things were calm and I never felt like I needed to defend myself, or anyone else, in a physical or verbal way.

Is South Korea the Safest Place on Earth?

No.  South Korea could be in a full fledged war again at any time.  South Korea does have organized crime, street gangs and violent crime.  But it is not at the levels of crime in other places in the world.  Part of this is because of Korean culture and the way children are raised.  But part of it also can be attributed to South Korea having less people than other nations as well.  In either event, I would have no problem walking South Korea by myself at any time of the day or night.  I would also have no problem with anyone I cared about walking around Korea by themselves as well.

Hopefully this was helpful if you, or someone you love, are thinking of moving to or visiting South Korea anytime soon.  While crime and violence is a reality in the world in which we live in, you don’t have to allow the fear of it to paralyze you in South Korea.  As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to #askthewaygookin.