The following post is written by Matthew Bradley, Regional Security Director, Americas, International SOS on behalf of the GBTA Risk Committee.
With the 2018 Winter Olympics in full swing, there is much excitement around the globe, but also an underlying uneasiness, as Pyeongchang is only 50 miles away from the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea. The recent political tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have sparked many questions for the safety of those attending the Olympics and organizations sending their employees. Here are five key strategies for preparation if you find yourself at the Olympics:
- Stay Aware of the North Korea Threat: Tensions have cooled lately, but this will likely last only for the duration of the games. The underlying drivers of tensions on the Korean Peninsula remain unchanged:
- North Korea has intensified its provocative actions since leader Kim Jong-Un took power in 2011 and Pyeongyang remains committed to advancing its nuclear and missile delivery capabilities.
- As such, tensions will remain high on the Korean Peninsula throughout 2018.
- As always, Remain Alert for any Terrorism Threats: So far there have been no specific threats against the Olympics – either from international terrorist groups or their sympathizers. Although the high-profile nature of the Winter Olympics has led the authorities to increase the terrorist threat alert, the country is not high on the list of Islamist extremist targets, and South Korea has strong anti-terrorism capabilities.
- Be Alert to Social Unrest: High-profile events such as the Winter Olympics present an attractive platform for special interest groups to highlight their concerns, but there are currently no specific protests planned during the Games. It is important to have access to reliable local information to know if demonstrations are planned.
- Stay Vigilant to Avoid Petty Crime: As with all international travel, foreigners can be targeted for petty and opportunistic crimes; such as pick-pocketing or purse snatching in crowded areas. While South Korea is generally safe, it is important to remain alert to your surroundings. Additional police officers will be present around the Games, with designated crime prevention zones around the venues.
- Pre-Arrange Transportation with a Local Driver: It is important to pre-arrange a car with local driver, as well as utilize the free shuttle buses around Games venues.
- When hiring taxis, it is useful to have the destination name written in Korean. You should prepare some cards with common destinations like the Olympic venues and your hotel in advance.
- In the event of a road accident, it is best to remain at the site and let the driver report the accident to the police and insurance company.
- Travelers should phone emergency contacts to request any support required.
Although overall risks in South Korea during the Olympics are low, organizations should provide security training designed to help their travelers mitigate, manage and respond to daily risks and situations described above. It is important to establish sound security protocols that allow for efficient preparation to protect travelers. Following these simple mitigation measures can ensure a safe and enjoyable time at this sporting spectacle.