In South Korea, Migrants Learn How to Prepare for and Respond to Emergencies

Location: South Korea

Seoul - In South Korea, migrants are some of the most neglected and marginalized groups during emergency situations. Due to language barriers, restrictions on mobility, limited social networks, and limited familiarity with the local emergency response practices and procedures, migrants are more likely to be left behind during crises. This prevents them from accessing facilities, services, and information needed to ensure their safety.

To address this situation and better prepare migrants in the event of a crisis, IOM and the Ministry of Public Safety and Security organized a series of disaster preparedness training sessions for migrants in seven cities. A total of nine sessions were held between 13 and 21 June 2017 for more than 230 migrants on protection and emergency responses.  

The training was designed as a pilot course for the Korea Immigration and Integration Program managed by the Ministry of Justice. This program assists newly arrived migrants in learning the language, culture, and social norms through a phased approach. Since the training was conducted in Korean, only migrants who had completed basic Korean language courses provided by the Immigration and Integration Programme were able to participate. To enhance the effectiveness of the training, guide books were developed in the languages most commonly spoken by migrants in South Korea, in addition to Korean, Chinese, English, Thai and Vietnamese. The guide book was devised to include essential information on disaster responses in a concise way. In order to allow for an easier understanding of the materials, appropriate responses to different emergency situations were illustrated with visuals.

During the training, migrants learned the basics of emergency response management, including dealing with natural disasters, information on the health risks associated with poor sanitation, how to find evacuation centres near their home, and how to plan ahead for a possible emergency. They also participated in disaster response simulation exercises held in local safety training centers. Local firefighters and IOM staff demonstrated appropriate actions for different emergency scenarios, including CPR and the use of fire extinguishers. Migrants also practiced emergency drills with simulations of earthquakes, heavy snow, marine disasters, typhoons, and fire.

After completing the pilot program, Seonyoung Lee, Project Coordinator of IOM in Seoul, expressed her hopes to expand this program for newly migrated groups, who barely speak and understand the Korean language. Ms. Lee commented that these are often the most vulnerable group of migrants in the country. She added that we may encourage and empower migrants themselves to work as trainers, supporting and training newly arrived groups as well. 


For more information, please contact IOM Seoul. Miah Park, Tel: +82 70 4820 2781, Email:, or Seonyoung Lee, Tel: +82 70 4820 0751, Email: