Getting a Mobile Phone in Korea

Most of us are so dependent on our mobile phones that we feel lost without it (me included :P) So when you come to Korea you’d be dying to get a mobile phone! But don’t get too excited yet, because there are certain requirements you have to fulfill before that.

1. Alien Registration Card

This is absolutely the most important. Without it, you can only get a prepaid service at best. If you want to sign for a Korean line, make sure you apply for your ARC asap!! More information on applying for ARC here

2. Bank account information

If you’re using a Korean bank, you have to make sure that the bank account type is that with an ARC number. Now you see the importance of the ARC 😛

3. Age

Yes, I’m serious. You have to be 20 years old (21 in Korean age) to be able to apply for a phone service, whether it’s prepaid or postpaid service. If you are below 20 you will need a legal guardian (ie your parents) to be there to sign the contract for you.

There are 3 major telecom service providers in Korea, namely KT Olleh, SKT and LG U+. All offer plans at about the same price, but SKT requires foreigners to pay the device fee upfront. Usually, you will be able to pay for the device fee in installments, but SKT requires foreigners to pay the device fee at one go. So if you’re getting a Samsung Galaxy S II for example, you’ll need to pay W900,000 all at once if you’re signing with SKT. With KT or LG, they allow you to pay by installments. (I’ve heard that the law changed in late 2013, but I’m not too sure yet.)

So what if you’re a minor and can’t get a mobile phone by yourself?

Some of my friends got their Korean friends to sign the phone line for them. However, the disadvantage comes when you try to apply for accounts on say, Daum. They would require you to confirm your handphone number and your ARC number, and that is when the problem comes. You can’t use your own ARC number; you would have to ask for your Korean friend’s Social Security Number. The same goes for certain services that require you to pay from your phone, and you’d have to enter your friend’s Social Security Number as well.

This is the reason why I chose the second alternative (since I’m turning 20 next year) – renting a phone. Renting phones normally is really expensive cos they count the rental fees by days, but I’ve found this rental service from S Roaming that is a prepaid service especially for foreign students. All you need is a credit card and a certificate of admission or enrollment to prove that you’re indeed a student in Korea. More information here.

Most Koreans use Kakaotalk (the Korean version of whatsapp) instead of SMS, so it’d be advisable for you to get a smartphone (and possibly unlimited data service) so that you can use Kakaotalk with your friends in Korea. You can also create Kakaotalk IDs so that your friends back home can communicate with you free of charge as well (:

If you already have a phone from your country and you intend to use it in Korea, you wouldn’t be able to use it just by inserting any prepaid SIM card. First, you have to make sure that your phone is carrier unlocked. Check it with your local service provider to make sure that it’s carrier unlocked. If it isn’t, you can get your local service provider to unlock it. ONLY your local service provider can carrier unlock your phone, so make sure that you check it before you come to Korea. In Singapore all phones are carrier unlocked, so don’t worry about that. Also, your phone would have to be registered in the “whitelist” so that it can be used on the Korean network. So far I know only of KT that offers this service. KT also has global stores where the staff speak in English (and a variety of other languages like Chinese, Japanese, even German) so I believe it will be recommended for you to go there if you can’t really speak Korean. The KT website for foreigners here.

Additional websites: SKT and LG. (Sorry the LG one is in Korean :P)

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7 thoughts on “Getting a Mobile Phone in Korea

  1. idut says:

    hello..im from malaysia.i’ll be visiting korea in a few months.say that im a samsung freak,i would love to grab some phone or camera anyway.do you recommend it or should i buy it in malaysia rather than korea?in other note,since samsung is korean,i believe the price is cheaper than our country?or not?

    would love to hear from you.thank you 🙂

    • studyinkorea says:

      Hello, I think that you won’t be able to get a phone in Korea without an Alien Registration Card unless you go to Samsung store directly, but in terms of camera and other things I’m sure it is cheaper than Singapore, but I’m not so sure about Malaysia since I’m not sure about the prices there. You might just keep that in mind and check out the prices when you actually come to Korea? I would recommend visiting the Samsung store for the phones, and maybe Yongsan Electronics Market for the cameras for a better deal (:

  2. Suzy says:

    Oh about the age thing, I’m confused? Shouldn’t it be 20 korean age, meaning 18~19 international age? Because, I think the legal age is 20 in Korea right?
    Thank you!

  3. irene says:

    Most of the koreans have phone from 10yrs…is it allowed??😮i have frens from korea(through sns😂😉) but they are like 14-15….so do their parenys do all the paperworks?

    • studyinkorea says:

      Yes, in those cases their parents or legal guardians would have signed the papers for their mobile phone contracts. Unfortunately for international students we don’t have this option..

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