Winter Olympics 2018
Security is always a major concern when it comes to sporting events, especially global ones such as the Winter Olympics. In 2018, the safety issues concerning the event, to be hosted in Pyeongchang, are less related to criminality, as was the case with Rio de Janeiro last Summer Olympics, and more related with tensions between the host country, South Korea, and Kim Jong-un’s North Korea.
The official host is Pyeongchang county, approximately 180km (110 miles) of the capital Seoul. The coastal town of Gangneung will also be hosting part of the events. The driving distance between the two venues is approximately 120km (74 miles). However, authorities have already advised using public transport as some routes will be blocked for private vehicles use.
Security Risks and Travel Disruptions
Criminality and Risks
South Korea has some of the lowest crime rates in Asia, 0,74 per 100.000 inhabitants according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) latest data from 2014. Most of the violent crimes are gathered in Seoul. The biggest risks involve thefts and, less often, robberies. Pickpocketing and other petty crimes are expected to be the major concern during the sporting event.
Security Apparatus and Operations
The security apparatus will count with more than 13.000 police officers dispatched to the host city and venues. Explosive-detecting robots, smart police cars, smartphones developed for policing activities, and drone signal jamming devices will also be part of the security engine designed to keep the games safe. Intelligence agencies worldwide have also contributed to a list of more than 30.000 individuals considered security threats, who will be banned from coming to South Korea during the event. Operations can cause some disturbance in otherwise routine transportation and movements such as airport check-in and immigration lines, traffic disruptions on host cities and security checks in venues’ entrances.
Political Tension with North Korea
Tensions with North Korea
A conflict and possible attack from North Korea seemed to be the main subject among security analysts during preparations for the event. The uncertainty of the country’s participation in the games raised even more concerns. Besides the long-term tensions with the host country, the presence of a massive USA delegation could be considered a factor when considering security. Any sort of conflict or provocation can almost be discarded since a delegation of North Korean athletes, journalists, artists among other professionals are expected to attend the events in Pyeongchang and other venues. North Korea’s president Kim Jong-un and USA vice-president Mike Pence have also confirmed their presence.
Although South Korea is considered very safe for international standards, some measures can be taken to minimize risks of disruptions:
- Carry only essentials with you. Keep only a limited amount of money in your wallet, leave at least one credit card at your hotel or other accommodation and carry only the copy of your passport or other documents with you for identification.
- Avoid showing off expensive belongings such as cameras, smartphones, and jewelry.
- Keep alert of your surroundings. Walk away at any sign of disturbance or if you feel in any kind of danger.
- Monitor local media outlets and SAFEY app for updates.
You can find more detailed advisory and real-time alerts on the event in the SAFEY app