2012 Guide to Getting a Cell Phone in South Korea

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:

  1. Visit the KT Telecom Office in Gangnam
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. Your Foreigner ID card and proof of your Visa Status – so your passport would be good too!
  5. You’ll need a job too and address – basically all the regular stuff you should have to prove your credit back home.
  6. 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/

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8 thoughts on “2012 Guide to Getting a Cell Phone in South Korea

  1. Pingback: Working, Living & Eating in Korea | Living in Korea

  2. Pingback: Some advice on getting cell phones in Korea (for foreigners) | Korea Blog | Life in in Seoul Busan Hanguk

  3. Pingback: 2012 Guide to Getting a Cell Phone in South Korea | Korea Blog | Life in in Seoul Busan Hanguk

  4. This post is really informative to me since I have been trying to get a phone here in Seoul, I haven’t got a positive result yet due to my alien registration card not being registered yet until the Oct 10.

    I have been trying to get the best deal from the many shops I have visited. But, the cheapest one so far is ~82,000 won for 30 months contract plan for the LTE72 Samsung Galaxy 3.

    Kamsamida for the post! 😀

    Btw, I also just arrived in Seoul last month! ^^

  5. Glad to hear it’s been informative and helpful. I really wanted this blog to help people “improve” their lives here…so it looks like I’ve helped at least one person. 🙂

    My plan is something like 70,000+ a month and I haven’t had any problems with using more data or minutes than I’ve used…rather, I haven’t had to pay more than the 7X,000 won despite using my data quite a bit. It’s the plan one step up from what most people take on that’s 50 or 60k/month.

  6. Question: is having a local bank account mandatory? I’m only staying for about 6 months, so it seems like a big hassle to get organized. I transferred money to a korean account for my apartment and ended up paying through my nose for it.
    Also, the foreigner ID card: do you mean the ID of your home country, or the alien registration for korea? Read that could take up to a month to be processed -_-;;

  7. I believe the bank account is required. It legitimizes the individual as far as the company is concerned (kind of like a credit source), but 3 years ago, I used to pay in person every month. So, there’s a chance you might be able to find a plan like that. You would have to talk to the companies though.

    In terms of the ARC (alien registration card), it does take a while to get it (3 weeks minimum). You definitely need one of these with the KT office in Kangnam. I asked if you could get one without and they said no. If you can get a Korean citizen to sponsor you, that’s the only way around this, I believe.

    You would have to probably buy a used phone from a company like the http://www.thearrivalstore.com/ or otherwise where you pay for the entire amount of the phone up front and then hopefully find a plan that allows you to pay for it monthly. However, the registration requirement would need most likely a substitute somehow validating your stay or legitimacy in the country.

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