Electrical current is 110 or 220 volts, 60Hz. Most
hotels operate on 220 volts.
The official language is Korean.
Tipping is not customary in Korea. Sometimes, expensive
restaurants and luxury hotels may add a service charge of 10%. Taxi
drivers are usually tipped if they assist with baggage.
Most visits to South Korea are trouble-free. The crime rate
against foreigners is low, but it is still advisable to use
sensible precautions particularly in safeguarding passports, money
and credit cards in crowded areas. There has been an increased
number of rapes reported in the nightlife areas of Seoul, as well
as in private homes and travellers should be cautious, particularly
at night, travelling only in legitimate taxis or public transport.
The political situation is generally stable but since the Korean
peninsula was divided by a demilitarised zone in 1953, tensions
have risen and fallen on occasion. It is wise to be informed about
current conditions. You should carry some form of identification at
all times and ensure your next-of-kin details have been entered
into the back of your passport.
English is not widely spoken or understood, so if you plan to
use taxis or other local services it is wise to have instructions
written down in Korean. It is advisable to carry some form of
identification at all times. Social harmony is crucial, and public
anger or criticism that causes an individual to 'lose face' or
dignity is a serious breach of etiquette. Koreans will go out of
their way to maintain a comfortable situation.
The increase in trade with Western countries has meant that
Koreans do not expect visitors to understand all the nuances of
their culture, however they are appreciated. Koreans dress
conservatively and formally and it is important to do the same.
Koreans like to do business with people whom they know and often
introductions via a third known party are necessary. Greetings
often consist of a bow, followed by a handshake. Introductions are
very important and ascertain the hierarchy, often according to age,
which is to be observed and respected. Often the most important
person will be introduced first. Greeting in Korean,
'an-yong-ha-say-yo' (hello), and 'kam-sa-ham-ni-da' (thank you), is
a good way to earn respect. Business card etiquette is vital; they
should be given and received with both hands, with the details
translated from English into Korean or Chinese on the alternate
side, and must be treated with the utmost respect. Each one is to
be read carefully and the name acknowledged. It is important, when
issuing cards, not to stack them or keep them in one's wallet or
purse. Koreans are referred to by their surnames or family names
first and then their given names second and it is best to ask in
advance how to address the person. The giving of gifts is
appreciated and often reciprocated. Business hours are generally
9am to 6pm Monday to Friday.
The international dialling code for South Korea is +82, and the
outgoing code is 001 or 002 followed by the relevant country code
(e.g. 00144 for the UK). The outgoing code when using some mobile
phones is 00700. City or area codes are in use, e.g. (0)2 for
Seoul. Telecommunications are well developed and call boxes
accepting both cash and cards are prevalent. Internet cafes are
widely available. Although mobile telephones are widely used by
locals, there is no GSM network and foreign phones will not usually
work in the country, even when on international roaming. Local
mobile phones may be rented.
Travellers (over the age of 19) arriving in South Korea may
bring in the following items free of customs duty: 200 cigarettes
or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco products; 57g perfume; 1 litre of
alcohol (only those over 20 years old); and gifts valued at not
more than 400,000 won. Products from communist countries are
prohibited, as are fruit, seeds and any published or recorded
material deemed to be subversive or obscene.