If you’re like me (before August 14, 2012), I read everything that I could find on “how to get a phone in Korea” before coming back to Seoul. Back when I was in Busan between 2006-2010, I realized like all foreigners that I only had the following options to get a “hand phone” right away:
- Pay the 500,000 won or more down (usually closer to 800,000-1,000,000+ won for most smart phones these days) on top of the monthly fees to get service
- Get a used phone to avoid the huge up front fees
- Or get a local citizen to sponsor me (which I was fortunate to have happen at the time because Koreans are literally the “friendliest people in the world”)
Basically, it makes a lot of sense that Korean Telecom companies (KT Telecom [Olleh], SK Telecom [T-world], or LG Telecom [U+]) to make it difficult for people who are not planning to stay in Korea for the long term, but instead to only give out phones on plans they mostly offer their citizens. Foreigners many times can’t fulfill the 2-3 year commitments that they require to pay off the 800,000-1,000,000+ million they collect over the 2-3 years of an agreement. They know they’ll get that entire amount back from a native Korean though. So, all you need is a Korean citizenship and you’re good to go.
Well, obviously, you most likely aren’t a Korean citizen if you’re reading this post.
Fortunately, you’re in luck! You now can get the latest in phone technology here in Korea as an expat and get the great monthly deals that Korean citizens get. How?
Well, for now (but hopefully I’ll post more later for other cities), KT Telecom here in Gangnam has an office that allows E-2, F-2, F-4 and other foreigner visa holders to get a cell phone easily. I’m thinking it might even be the same at the other offices in other cities, but need to confirm this. I believe KT has made a conscious decision to support foreigners in contrast to SK and LG (at least at this time).
Quick Steps in Getting your Cell Phone in Korea:
- Visit the KT Telecom Office in Gangnam
- Ask for “King” who manages not only the office, but speaks fluent English and manages the foreigner relationships. If he’s not there, most of the other reps can probably sign you up. If you can’t understand them, just say “sign up” or “가입” (which I believe means the same thing)
- You’ll need a form of payment that’s local. (a) Local bank account or (b) debit card from a Korean bank (that’s obviously got enough money in it)
- Your Foreigner ID card and proof of your Visa Status – so your passport would be good too!
- You’ll need a job too and address – basically all the regular stuff you should have to prove your credit back home.
- Lastly, tell them that “Brandon” sent you. I wanted to show them that once people know how easy it is to get one that you’ll all visit him! Unfortunately, I don’t get a kick back, but maybe they’ll appreciate it after you read this and go there!
That’s about it. Obviously, there’s other things that will happen, but frankly, I got my cell phone in about a little over an hour and got the latest Apple iPhone (4s) and paying about 75,000 won a month. I forget all the plan details, but will be happy to share them later, if I can. I know I basically chose a lot of options that weren’t the basic and had a bit more. It wasn’t the top plan getting everything, but it was SO easy. I couldn’t believe how simple it was and I have an F-4 and was sitting next to two caucasians there cancelling their service because they were leaving the country. King said you can have any foreigner visa and they’ll help you.
Here’s some extra info from others or updates to the post:
There is a mobile store on the 8th floor of Ipark mall in Yongsan Station.
All the services that you can find in Korea will be available there. You can bring your own phone as long as it is unlocked (country) and you can get a pre-paid or a post paid phone plan. Literally everything will be available at the store for your benefits. Best of all all services are provided in English by fluent speakers. you can go to their web-page at http://www.wirelessnbeyond.co.kr
-from Tim who commented on our sister blog post http://therealsouthkorea.wordpress.com/2008/08/09/some-advice-on-getting-cell-phones-in-korea-for-foreigners/