King Sejong of the Chosun Dynasty developed the Korean script, called Hangul, in 1446. Koreans honor his contribution every year on October 9 with a national holiday. The Hangul script can be learned in about five hours of study, but mastering the language itself takes years. Koreans are proud of their language, and foreigners who learn a few lines might find otherwise closed doors opened to them.
The local currency is called the won (KRW). It comes in 10,000-, 5,000-, and 1,000-won notes and in 500-, 100-, 50-, and 10-won coins.
It is best to convert travelers’ checks into won. All major checks are easily converted. Credit Cards are widely accepted in bigger cities and tourist destinations, but not in small towns and villages.
It is best to carry local currency, though in some shopping areas geared to tourists, such as Itaewon, merchants will accept U.S. dollars. Change will be given in won. Most major banks have currency-exchange windows. Major hotels also offer this service.
Korean Exchange Bank branches provide cash advances from credit cards, as will some ATM machines, though these are difficult to find. ATM machines are not linked to Cirrus, Plus, Star, or Interlink systems, so ATM cards from your hometown bank are not usable.
Voltage varies from 110-220 volts, though the government is standardizing to a 220-volt system. Two types of plugs are common: plugs with parallel blades and those with two thin, round pins. Some plugs have a third round pin.
Transformers to convert down from 220-volts to 110-125 volts may be needed for some electrical devices. Electrical adapter plugs are available to slip over foreign plugs.
The country code for Korea is 82.
City calling codes include:
Sorak/East Coast: 0392
Coin-operated public telephones are increasingly difficult to find, but phones using phone cards are widely available. Phone cards with values of KRW3,000, KRW5,000 and KRW10,000 may be purchased at street kiosks and in convenience stores. To use them, first pick up the receiver, then insert the card. The amount remaining on the card will appear on a small screen. Dial the number and the amount used during the call will be subtracted from the card. Coin-operated phones accept 50-, 100-, and 500-won coins. Insert the coin and dial the number. The original amount inserted will appear on a small, digital screen. Watch this number, and add more coins as needed.
Korea is in Greenwich Mean Time plus nine hours. Korea does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
Fire and ambulance: 119
American Embassy 82 Sejongro, Chongno-gu, Seoul, Korea; Tel.: +82 2-397-4114
Australian Embassy 11th Floor, Kyobo Bldg., 1-1, Chongno 1-ga, Chongno-gu, Seoul, Korea; Tel.: +82 2-730-6490
British Embassy 82 Sejongro, Chung-gu, Seoul, Korea; Tel.: +82 2-735-7341/3
Canadian Embassy 10th Floor, Kolon Bldg., 45 Mugyo-dong, Chung-gu, Seoul, Korea; Tel.: +82 2-753-2605/8
French Embassy 30 Hap-dong, Sodaemun-gu, Seoul, Korea; Tel.: +82 2-312-3272
German Embassy 4th Floor, Daehan Fire & Marine Insurance Bldg., 51-1 Namch’ang-dong, Chung-gu, Seoul, Korea; Tel.: +82 2-726-7114
Irish Embassy 15th Floor Daehan Fire & Insurance Bldg., 51-1 Namch’ang-dong, Chung-gu, Seoul, Korea; Tel.: +82 2-744-6455
Japanese Embassy 18-11 Chunghak-dong, Chongno-gu, Korea; Tel.: +82 2-733-5626