South Korea Evacuation Planning Advice

Current tensions between North and South Korea is cause for evacuation planning and revision of existing options for pre-emptive or priority relocation of company personnel. in this article we discuss some of the key considerations for evacuations and priority relocations for South Korea. Specific areas we will examine is China as an evacuation destination, Japan relocation options, government assisted evacuations, service providers, triggers for action and general logistics issues. If you currently have personnel or are located in South Korea you need to read this article. By the end of this article you will have the beginning of an evacuation strategy or benchmark considerations for existing plans.

The contents of this article are broad references based on practical experience and expertise. They do not constitute a personal solution and should not be actioned as a sole means of planning nor considered a personal or commercial solution for your particular circumstances. For a more detailed or specific evaluation or plan, ensure you discuss with an expert or professional in these areas.


Many will have default or preliminary planning that includes China as a destination for routine relocations and emergency evacuations. This is not a very practical solution, often not discovered until the time of need or overly weighted in the overall plan.

The reason that China is not an effective alternative is due to the limited visa upon arrival options. This means, unscheduled access to the country is very limited. Service providers, commercial and charter, will be limited in offering access to the country without an existing business visa which in itself can take time and likely to be delayed in the current tensions.

It is recommended that you remove or cease to consider the use of China as a viable initial or final destination for evacuation planning when considering South Korea.


Japan and South Korea have significant transport connections by way of ferries and flights. It is a well travelled route for many Japanese and Korean business and leisure travellers on a daily basis but it presents problems for evacuation and relocation planning considerations.

The use of ferries for international evacuation plans is subject to both availability and weather conditions, regardless of the advance service solutions. There are select ports of disembarkation but they are mostly located in the southern extremities of the South Korea peninsula. This means there is also a road or air connection consideration if utilising ferries. Practically, driving for hours to get to a ferry solution that may or may not be operational/effective presents a major risk of failure for planners.

Key location access to Japan is always in high demand, therefore any spike in access or demand will result in limited accommodation options and most certainly an increase in cost. Everyone must always remember in times of evacuation that many others have the same plans and actions as you, therefore what seemed like a logical action during the planning phase becomes a much less viable option when demand peaks or personnel start moving.

From a practical perspective, Japan will be considered an ally of both South Korea and the US by North Korea. Therefore it will feature in the military targeting operations and given its proximity to South Korea would have collateral impact as a result of direct or indirect targeting. Flights and ferries would most certainly be affected and short to medium term accommodation less palatable. Reconsider the use of Japan or remove it for planning purposes.

Government Assisted Evacuations

All governments talk about support to their citizens and evacuation planning options. Few governments are actually very good at this and the overlay of military operations during such circumstances means that much of the military resources that would support plans and shortfalls will simply be prioritised elsewhere.

Government assisted operations feature in many corporate plans. They fail in many corporate plans because even their own governments recommend a self-help approach and preemptive planning if organisations are seeking any degree of certainty or priority treatment. Waiting for the government to provide access to evacuation and emergency relocation resources is typically a scary, frustrating, low service standard and unpredictable process. Government assisted evacuations are best reserved for absolute last options and fallback considerations in the corporate or commercial context.

Service Providers

South Korea has an active and very comprehensive National Service system. Many South Korean citizens, especially males, will have completed a period of military service and will be part of the active reserve and defence of the country. There is a high probability that many, if not all will be activated in the event of military preparedness for hostilities. This means that many service providers, with staff and resources within South Korea will immediately be affected or no longer be able to offer services. This applies to non-related services too such as amenities and commercial services.

Charter or non-scheduled aircraft are typically only available during specified times and dates. They are not on constant call or pre-positioned in anticipation. This means that unless you have a specific booking, arrangement or guarantee of an airframe on a specific date, time and location you should have an expectation of delay or failure in the event of immediate evacuation or relocation demand.

Scheduled fees and ancillary services will increase. Whatever you initially considered for your budget or cost of access, will increase with an increased demand. Be prepared for this or risk another point of failure due to inaccurate budget planning. Additionally, no amount of financial coercion will compensate for last minute or bad planning during crisis or emergency evacuations and many “fair weather” agreements will quickly be dissolved or fail.

Much like insurance plans, there are many policy holders but statistically low volume of claims. Evacuations and priority relocations at this time or specific to South Korea will mean that many are seeking to make claims on their policy or service provisions. All service providers will now have scalability and service disruption concerns with this spike in demand. With everyone calling upon the same or limited commercial service options, it will stress the system and all but guarantee delays or failure. Think practically and do not expect this option to be 100% effective or guaranteed.

Ask very specific questions of any/all service providers. Where, when, who else, how much and likelihood of success are all major start points.

Triggers for Action

Watch for the relocation or evacuation of non-essential staff form the embassy/ies. Watch for major multinationals evacuating family members and non essential staff. Not because it is an accurate measure for evacuation and relocation but it will trigger a psychological necessity for everyone to consider should I go or why not me too? This means, once this starts, everyone will be looking to exit too, whether required or not and your plans may be well underway before you planned or have authorised such actions.

Everyone’s risk tolerance and appetite is different. Companies vary also. Once you approach or exceed a person or company’s tolerance to risk or acceptable parameters, no amount of logic will stop them heading for the door. Monitor and be prepared for these less tangible triggers as they will be implemented long before practical concerns or actions are visible.

Now. Every individual and company representative should be reviewing and monitoring their exposure. All plans should be complete, existing plans reviewed and pre-determined milestones for circumstances clear to all that once approach or breached, it is time to go. Preliminary actions should be underway such as food and water reserves, cash, pet management, children removed from school or dependants relocated if and when required

General Logistics

Communications will be affected in South Korea at some time. It will be part of the military solution or the demand will slow or overload the infrastructure. Plan for alternate and non-technology communication solutions during this time.

Families, expatriates and travellers have a degree of comfort and routine. Any evacuation and relocation plan will disrupt this so ensure you include daily living aspects in your plan such as medicines, what to do with pets, first national (Korean) dependants, rental agreements, transport, accommodation, medicines and even education or career.

Remember that everyone else is looking at options and anyone exposed to the South Korea situation has an opinion or probability to seek to access similar resources in time of need. Everyone heading to the same location, same resource or same point of embarkation will result in a major change to your plans and its effectiveness.


Current tensions between North and South Korea has triggered evacuation planning and revision of existing options for pre-emtive of priority relocation of company personnel. in this article we discussed some of the key consideration for evacuation and priority relocations for South Korea. Specifically we will examined China as an evacuation destination, Japan relocation options, government assisted evacuations, triggers for action and general logistic issues.  If currently have personnel or are located in South Korea you need to act upon the content of this article immediately. You should now have  the beginning of an evacuation strategy or benchmark considerations for existing plans. 

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