The Republic of Korea, hereinafter referred to as Korea, is a country visited by approximately 10 million international travelers every year. With its long history and unique culture and traditions, the country has a lot to offer to its visitors. Continue reading to learn some more general information about Korea before visiting.

Where is Korea?

The Korean peninsula, roughly 1,030 km long and 175 km at its narrowest point, has a total land area of 100,033 km2 and is located in Northeast Asia. With Seoul as its capital city, Korea is neighbored by Japan to the east, China to the west and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) across the northern border.

Language

Hangeul (한글), Korea’s official alphabet, was first invented by King Sejong during the Joseon Dynasty. Originally called Hunminjeongeum (훈민정음), the language was conceived in 1443, and further promulgated by the King in 1446. At the time of its inception, the language consisted of 17 consonants and 11 vowels however, since then, 3 of the originally established consonants and 1 vowel have fallen into disuse bringing the total number of characters to 24. Syllables are formed by the selective combination of vowels and consonants to create words.
Basic Expressions

Business Hours

Government office hours are usually from 9:00 to 18:00 on weekdays. Banks are open from 9:00 to 16:00 on weekdays. Most stores are open every day from 10:30 to 20:00, including Sundays.

Currency & Exchange

The currency of Korea is the South Korean won, or won for short. The currency sign for the won is ₩. There are currency exchanges at the airports and select locations around Seoul and elsewhere, but the best way to get money all over Korea would be through ATMs. You can find ATMs at airports, subway stations and most convenient stores. You would use them the same way you would at home and there will likely be a transaction fee of about $3-$5. It is generally a good idea for all travelers to bring at least $100 USD on them that they can exchange when they arrive in Korea in case they have issues with their card

Tip & Tax

Service charges are included in your bill for rooms, meals, and other services at hotels and upscale restaurants. Koreans occasionally do tip when they are especially pleased with the service they receive. Foreign tourists can receive nearly 10 % VAT refunds for purchases at Duty Free shops. Goods must be taken out of Korea within three months of purchase to be eligible for a tax refund. Visitors can receive a refund on a receipt for a minimum purchase of KRW 50,000 (around USD 43). To receive this refund, present receipts with the purchased goods at the customs clearance desk at Incheon International Airport when departing.

Electricity Info

The standard electricity supply is 220 volts AC/60 cycles. Most hotels may provide outlet converters for 110 and 220 volts. Participants are recommended to check with the hotel beforehand.

Emergency Phone Numbers

1339: Medical Emergency
119: Emergencies for Fire, Rescue & Hospital Services
112: Police
129: First Aid Services

Useful Websites

Korea Tourism Organization: Go
Gateway to Korea: Go
Seoul Tourism Organization: Go
Seoul Metropolitan Government: Go
Korea Immigration Service: Go
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Go
Incheon International Airport: Go

Visa

Foreign nationals entering Korea are required to have a valid passport and a Korean visa issued by the Korean embassy or consular offices in their country. However, citizens from many countries are now permitted visa-free entry for a limited period under certain conditions. In order to check whether you are allowed to enter Korea without visa issuance and for other requirements, please contact a Korean embassy or consular office in your country or visit the following websites to confirm.

Visa Information

Ministry of Foreign Affairs  Korean English
Korea Immigration Service   Korean English
Hi Korea  Korean English

Example of Entry Visa to Korea

Countries under Visa Waiver Agreements

Nationals of visa waiver countries can enter Korea without a visa as long as the purpose of their visit is tourism or temporary visit. If they want to engage in profitable activities such as employment, they must apply for a Korean visa suitable for their purpose.

Find Countries under Visa Waiver Agreements with Korea

Designated visa-free entry

Taking into consideration international convention, mutuality doctrine, national profit and other such factors, certain countries are granted visa-free entry permissions (48 countries as of 1 September 2018). Nationals of the following countries are allowed up to 30 days of visa-free sojourn for tourism or visitation. Exceptions: 1) Canada is allowed up to 6 months 2) The United States, Australia, Hong Kong, Slovenia and Japan are allowed up to 90 days.

Continent Countries/ regions
Countries that are granted visa-free entry for diplomatic, government official, and general passport holders
(46 countries)
Asia Macao(90 days), Brunei, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Japan (90 days), Qatar, Taiwan(90 days), Hong Kong (90 days), Kuwait(90 days), Bahrain[10 countries]
North America United States(90 days), Canada (6 months) [2 countries]
South America Guyana, Argentina, Ecuador(90),Paraguay, Honduras [5 countries]
Europe Monaco, Vatican, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Cyprus, San Marino, Serbia(90), Montenegro, Slovenia (90 days), Andorra, Croatia(90) [11 countries]
Oceania Guam, Nauru, New Caledonia, Micronesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Fiji, Australia (90 days), Marshall Islands, Palau, Tuvalu, Tonga [13 countries]
Africa South Africa, Seychelles, Mauritius, Swaziland, Botswana (5 Countries)
Countries that are granted visa-free entry for diplomatic and government official passport holders
(2 countries)
Asia Indonesia, Lebanon

Seoul Attractions

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung, the main palace of The Joseon Dynasty, has returned. After an over 20-year-long restoration project, Gyeonbokgung now stands tall at the foot of Bugak Mountain looking down Gwanghwamun Plaza, with its old dignity fully regained.

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N Seoul Tower

Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, the N Seoul Tower stands for Seoul. The tower, soaring from the top of Namsan, is beautifully lit at night and has been decorating the skyline of Seoul for decades.

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Cheonggyecheon Stream

This beautiful stream, lined on each side by vertical walls, is located in the middle of one of the busiest streets in Seoul. It’s the perfect place to go for a stroll with a friend or significant other and a refreshing combination of nature and urban environments.

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Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) has attracted much attention from all levels of society since it opened in 2014. It has now become an architectural space and cultural complex representing Seoul.

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Namdaemun Market

This is the largest general market in metropolitan Seoul and receives more than 400,000 visitors everyday. According to them, they have “everything except nothing” and the charms and sights you will find in the market are as vast and overwhelming as the amount of products that fill the place.

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