August 30, 2011

the good samaritan...

A couple of months ago a friend of mine accidentally left her Iphone in a bathroom. The phone sat there for 15 minutes (or so) before she was able to return to the stall, only to find a toilet. She called and texted the phone countless times hoping someone would answer it, yet no one did. In most countries this would be the end of the story, and she would have been out a cell phone. For three days all seemed lost, and as she was about to buy a new Iphone, she received a call; someone had found her phone, and wanted to return it. It did take a couple of days, but common decency was able to prevail. That same friend of mine went on to leave her laptop on a train a couple of weeks later. This time to have it turned into 'lost and found' and she picked it up within hours of losing it. While she may be forgetful, there were still two people kind enough to turn these items in instead of pocketing them for themselves.

Those are just two short examples, yet I feel that they are a pretty decent reflection of the crime that I have experienced here. It is almost nonexistent, Koreans are very caring people. This minuscule amount of crime seems to be validated through reported crime statistics. The crime rate in Korea is lower than both Canada and the United States (link). One thing to keep in mind though is that the data isn't totally up to date (2002) and I feel that Mexico should be higher. BUT Korea has one of the largest cities in the world, and is still able to rank below Canada (which doesn't have a city to truly compare to Seoul).

Honestly, most of the crime that I have experienced in Seoul has been around other foreigners. Even US state reviews of Korea warn about tourist areas (although still commend Korea for being a country with low crime). Their definition of tourist areas applies to Itaewon (mostly), and other areas of the city where foreigners congregate. I feel that it's more the foreigners (and not Koreans) in some of these areas that are perpetrating most of the crime. While hanging out in tourist areas early in the morning (the non-traditional tourist hours of midnight - 7am) I have known friends who have lost purses and jackets, even when they have been locked up in a locker. While hanging out in non-tourist areas you can leave purses and jackets in booths, and tables out in the open, and return to them later on. The biggest form of theft that occurs here is when people drunkenly take the wrong jacket, which isn't really theft, because your jacket is usually with another member of your group.

This is not to say that Itaewon et al. are slums and dangerous areas you should avoid. They are simply the areas of the city where I've actually experienced crime, and the state department also recognizes this (I swear  I had no influence on this). These parts of the city are great, and offer some of the best foreign food such as Indian, Thai, Mexican and North American (the best breakfasts can be found here, as Korean breakfast doesn't quite fill the void of bacon and eggs). Anywho, even walking around these parts of the city I've always felt safe, and always kept my wallet unguarded in my back pocket.

I've found that pretty much walking anywhere in the city, regardless of time, is a safe action. I have witnessed some street fights, never feeling uneasy about them, as Koreans usually keep to themselves during this process. I once walked right through the middle of one unscathed. I am a guy, and 192cm (6'3"), so that may have something to do with my feelings of ease. But I've never ever felt uneasy in Seoul, unlike some of the other countries, and metropolises I've ventured to. While I was in Europe there was countless times that I put my wallet in my underwear, including a time where I spooned my backpack in order to keep it safe from gypsies. I've even experienced times in Toronto (Canada's megacity) where I felt that I didn't belong.

In spite of this praise, about crime in Korea, and that Koreans are good Samaritans. I accidentally left my Ipod touch in a cab last week. I emailed it, left a posts on the cab companies lost board, and I had friends send me KakaoTalk messages (if you haven't heard of KakaoTalk, you should, especially if you have a smartphone! free texting anywhere in the world!) Anywho, the Korean cab driver did not check the email, reply to the wall post, or to any of my friends on Kakao. Instead he wiped it, and likely pocketed it for himself. sigh...


  1. Hi Sean,
    I'm from Canada and I'm looking into moving to Seoul to teach, and came across your blog. I was just wondering how you found your school - i.e., how did you know it wasn't a scam if you found it online?

  2. Hey,
    I found my first school through a recruiter, I had the name passed to me through friends. However, my second year I found a job through Daves ESL cafe. I would suggest using that site, as you will get the best choice of schools. Recruiters don't give you as good a selection, and you can find some great schools on Daves ESL. I haven't heard of any of those schools being scams, they are pretty legit.

    Hope that helps..


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