Antte Alatalo had a surprise when he first walked around Seoul at night.
There wasn't anything to fear.
The Finnish exchange student, 23, said the experience was in contrast to European cities, which were often unnerving after dark.
"I have never felt isolated walking alone in Seoul as there are always other people strolling around in almost any part of the city, even late at night," he said, adding "I have never seen a fight breaking out since I came here."
Among Alatalo and other international visitors, Seoul's reputation as a safe city has been steadily gaining for years.
The bi-yearly Safe Cities Index by The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked it the eighth safest city in the world in 2019, boosting its position from 24th in 2015 and 14th in 2017.
Its performance brings it nearer to Asian contemporaries such as the Japanese metropolises of Tokyo and Osaka, ranked first and third, and Singapore, which has held the number two spot since 2015.
However, its good fortunes are in stark contrast to those of Hong Kong, which slid from the ninth safest in 2017 to the 20th safest in the most recent study on the back of anti-government protests that have often turned violent and have been associated with two deaths.
Four major areas considered by the index are: digital security, health security, infrastructure security and the security of the individual.
While the blocking of Hong Kong's roads and transport facilities such as the airport by protesters seems to have hit the city's score for infrastructure, Hong Kong was still recognized as the third safest city in terms of personal security.
The index, which ranks a total of 60 cities, uses a scoring system that gives democratic development a similar weighting to per-capita income levels, explaining to some extent why no mainland Chinese city features in the top 30.
Air pollution is also a factor cited as to why Beijing, the highest-ranked Chinese city at number 30, fared lower than many other Asian megacities.
Here are the 20 safest cities in the world according to The Economist Intelligence Unit:
1. Tokyo 2. Singapore 3. Osaka 4. Amsterdam 5. Sydney 6. Toronto 7. Washington 8. Copenhagen 8. Seoul 10. Melbourne 11. Chicago 12. Stockholm 13. San Francisco 14. London 15. New York 16. Frankfurt 17. Los Angeles 18. Wellington 18. Zurich 20. Hong Kong
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