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The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games XXIII in the Republic of Korea will kick off tomorrow, February 9th, 2018. The fact that the Olympic Committee selected South Korea to host along with the rapidly growing number of international tourist arrivals to the country in recent years suggests that South Korea is a safe and hospitable destination. But, what does the data tell us?

Crime. The data tells us that in all likelihood, the flu will be more threatening to tourists and athletes than petty or even violent crime.

  • Korea has the fourth highest Safe Living Index among 41 developed countries worldwide, which is comparable with Switzerland. Korea’s burglary incidence rate--164 cases reported per 100,000 residents in 2014--is on par with the previous host of the Winter Olympics: Russia.
  • Unlike burglary, Korea’s homicide rate is one of the lowest in the world: less than one intentional homicide reported per 100,000 residents. Still, Gangwon province, where PyeongChang is located, is not among the least criminal provinces.
  • Cybercrimes, also presenting a concern to tourists, not a big problem in South Korea where such crimes are less prevalent than in many other developed countries.

Environment. Unlike in some previous olympic games, athletes and tourists will be at a lower risk to immediate, extreme environmental hazards or major natural disasters, apart perhaps from cold temperatures and icy roadways.

  • For long term residents, the air quality is a risk factor. The air in South Korea is one of the most polluted in Asia and globally. The concentration of PM2.5 particles in South Korea is almost 30 micrograms per cubic meter on average per year. Gangwon province has a concentration of PM2.5 of 27.
  • Earthquakes are the only natural disaster to regularly affect the Korean peninsula, including a 4.7 quake in Gangwon province in 2007. Earthquakes on the peninsula, however, do not typically cause injuries or extensive structural damage.

Conflict. Relations on the Korean peninsula remain strained, having been further inflated by three nuclear tests by North Korea over the last two years and the expansion of its nuclear inventory to approximately 15 warheads. The risk of hostilities and even war on the peninsula during the Winter Olympics is closely monitored by the Olympic Committee and US Department of State, although most experts deem the threat to be low.

  • It’s notable that there are now an estimated 1,800 North Korean defectors who migrate to the south each year, with a total of about 31,000 now living in the south. Only approximately 700 North Korean defectors reside in the Gangwon region. For these migrants, the joint participation of North and South Korean athletes will hold special significance.