Going to the police station, regardless of the reason, tends to be extremely stressful. Add in Korea’s obvious language and law differences and you’ve got yourself one confusing situation. Whether you’re reporting a crime, paying a parking ticket, or just getting information on something, it’s always good to know what to expect. There may be some slight variances depending on the station, how big the city is, and if you go to a police department vs station, but the procedures are mainly the same. For specific information regarding police stations in your area, you should call the station itself or the city in which your preferred station resides.
There are some differences in police administration between provinces, so it will always be best to contact your local department to find out exactly how they operate their facilities, investigations, and other procedures. For more general information, and information on how to contact your local departments, feel free to visit the Korean National Police Agency’s website. They even have a special part of the site for foreigners to report threats to safety in daily life, from sexual harassment to wildlife in the city to industrial hazards that you may see. After a response to your request/notification is received, you can check the status online. To access this resource, visit the link above, or click here to be taken there directly
When you first arrive at the police department, you’ll go through the main parking lot. This is usually guarded at the very front, and you will check your car into the parking lot. If you come on foot, bicycle, or bus, you will bypass this area altogether and just check in at the front desk. You’ll have to sign in with the front desk officer by presenting your passport or ARC (Alien Registration Card) and writing your name, phone number, and arrival time on the check-in form. The smaller police stations won’t usually ask you to sign in. Once this is done, you’ll state your business, be given a visitor’s pass, and asked to wait while someone comes to escort you to your destination. Most meetings require prior notice to avoid a long wait.
When filing a police report (사건사실확인서), they will ask for your ARC and/or passport. For serious crimes, evidence that the police will take into account are things such as voice recordings, pictures of physical assault (bruises, cuts, etc.), a physical exam, screenshots of messages, condoms, DNA samples, etc. The police are required to give you a translator, and you are legally allowed to request an officer and/or translator of a specific gender if you so desire. They will ask you many questions, and this can take many hours. There will be many forms to sign, and they will offer police protection in the form of another house to stay in, an escort, or police occasionally patrolling around your home if you fear that the assailant may come back.
After giving the initial report and bagging any evidence, the police will question you and the assailant as necessary. It changes from case to case, but a polygraph (lie-detector) test is sometimes administered. Any evidence, forms, and tests are only administered with your written permission, and records can be requested of all information at the police department where the original documents were originally created. These documents can take up to 3 weeks to be given to you, and will only be given by request. Any evidence such as articles of clothing can take up to 2 months to be returned to you, and will be returned by personal pick up only. They will not be delivered to you, but you may have someone else pick up the items if necessary.
It is illegal to install any type of wiretapping device or to record any conversation unless you yourself are a party to said conversation that you are recording. It is legal to record a telephone call or personal conversation between you and your assailant, so if it is something you wish to do, you can call them and try to get a confession from them. It can be directly helpful to your case if you acquire a voice recording of your assailant identifying themselves on the phone call and saying that they did indeed do XXX without permission. Whether you record a telephone call or a conversation in-person, it is not legally required of you to inform the other party of your recording before, during, or after the recording as long as you are an active participant in the recording.
Any large hospital can give a physical, retrieve DNA evidence, and administer STD testing. All STD testing and physical testing is free in Korea in the case that a crime is being reported. Even if it is impossible to prove that the person is guilty, all testing, therapy, police help, and other services are free. They will ask you basic questions about what happened, document it, and then send the gathered evidence to the police department. An officer will be sent to the hospital to ask questions and escort you as well. It is very rare that any physical exams will be conducted at the police station. Instead, an officer will escort you to and from the hospital as necessary and depending on the situation.
If you decide to press charges, you can opt to hire your own lawyer or be assigned a lawyer by the police department with which you filed your report. If you decide to hire your own lawyer, you will be responsible for all those fees. An assigned lawyer will almost always be free, and if they are not, you can find free lawyers willing to represent you. However, these lawyers rarely speak English and have little to no experience representing foreigners. For free legal assistance, visit http://global.seoul.go.kr, or call them at 02-2075-4123. Legal assistance here is provided by appointment only, and English services are provided. For fee-based lawyers, please reference this PDF.
It may go without saying, but cases with foreigners involved will still be governed by Korean law. The laws in your home country do not matter and will not be relevant, and ignorance is not an excuse that will be accepted in a court of law. As a foreigner residing in Korea, it is your responsibility to know and to follow Korean laws. This may be a bit difficult due to the language difference, but translation of Korean law is provided online. The official source for this can be found here. In the case that you need a translator for legal matters, you can find 24/7 free translation services by contacting BBB Korea at 1588-5644 or 02-7259-1089, by e-mail at email@example.com or by visiting www.bbbkorea.org.