What do you do when you are involved in or witness a crime in Korea? If you do already know the emergency numbers in Korea, do you know what happens when you call them?
With the help of the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA), we’ve found out what the process of reporting a crime looks like so you don’t have to. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
What’s considered a police emergency?
A police emergency is any situation where there are possible threats of safety to people or property. Disorderly conduct, robbery, aggravated assault, public intoxication, or sexual harassment are examples of what is regarded as a police emergency.
Calling the police
There are two options to contact the police: 112 for police emergencies and 182 for non-emergencies. As 112 is the emergency crime report number, it’s the most important to remember.
Another good number to know in the case of cyber crimes is 118, the line for reporting “cyber terror.” A full list of Korea’s emergency numbers can be found here.
For both 112 and 182, an area code is not required. If you are dialing from a payphone, press the 긴급전화 (Emergency Calls) button first and then dial 112. Dialing 112 will connect you to your nearest Emergency Dispatching and Operations Command Center. From there, you should:
1. Request an interpreter
Once you are connected with a 112 operator, request an interpreter so that the police can better understand your emergency. The police department has access to a variety of different language interpreters, not just English, depending on the caller’s needs.
2. State your location
It is common for 112 callers to give inaccurate information to 112 operators. This could result in delays in the dispatching procedure. Please provide the accurate location of your emergency first. This is to prevent miscommunications that could result in line disconnection or inaudible voice communication. If for any reason you are disconnected, the 112 operators will automatically dispatch the nearest unit to your location while trying to call you back.
Remember that 112 operators can track your current location without your consent. The tracking procedure requires authorization from the command officer in the situation room and will only be applied to calls that are regarded necessary. However, it’s not possible to track the location of foreign mobile phones used through roaming services.
As foreigners tend to have difficulty with Korean addresses, keep in mind that you can also use your smartphone to capture your location and send the attachment via text. Alternatively, you can also share your current location through video call to 112.
3. Provide key information
After your call is connected, describe when, where, and how you were involved in a crime. Also describe the appearance, characteristics, number, actions, and last known whereabouts of the offender or offenders. You do not need to provide any identification or documentation — reporting a crime can be done anonymously.
Your mobile device will receive a text message confirming your request for police assistance. The KNPA has a strict “3 minute response & dispatch” policy for emergency calls. Don’t forget that the responding officer may contact your mobile phone for additional information regarding the emergency.
Remain calm. Officers understand that you are in a stressful situation when you are dialing 112. Panic can result in talking too fast or slow, stuttering, and lack of situational awareness. Simply taking a deep breath can help you to remain calm.
Crime scenes must remain untouched until the police arrive to collect evidence. Cooperate with the police in a crime scene investigation.
The police will not report you to immigration. According to the KNPA, reports to the Immigrations Office are exempted to “prevent human rights violation even if the victim of a specific crime such as homicide, rape, violence, robbery, injury, etc. has illegal stay status.” Therefore, you can “seek assistance from the police without fear of having to leave the country forcibly by reporting crime damages.”
Your call may be recorded and monitored for security purposes. However, all 112 calls are kept confidential.
Psychological counseling is available at your request.
Other ways to report a crime
Via text message
Text reports to the 112 number are also available. According to the KNPA, “If you report in Korean, help can be dispatched quickly, but if you report in a foreign language, it may take some time to translate depending on the type of language.”
Reports can also be done through the “112 Emergency Report App” if calling is difficult. Search for “112긴급신고” in the App Store or Google Play and download the app.
The Safety eReport is a report about risky situations to administrative agencies to secure the public safety from disaster, accident and danger. Find out more information here.
Assistance Center for Foreigners
These are multicultural or religious organizations frequented by foreigners designated by the KNPA. Foreigners can visit these centers to report crimes and make civil appeals without visiting a police station. Find out more information here.
Tourist Police vs Regular Police
You’ve probably seen the tourist police around, as well as the regular Korean police. So as a foreigner, which one should you use? It’s okay to use both as either one will provide you with the help you need.