Sep 2, 2010

Buying *cell phones* in Korea

This has to be one of the most frequently asked questions we have had so far, so why not do a post on it to help anyone else wondering about what happens with regards to getting communication going here...

First of all, your South African cell phones (mobile phones) WILL NOT work here, i repeat, will not work here. The Korean phone system registers your phone to your ARC (alien registration card~like your ID Book back home which you are issued with as soon as you arrive here). And in this way, they don't actually have sim cards.

When we first arrived here in South Korea, we found a little dodgy cafe where some very suspect individuals were selling second hand phones, for a VERY reasonable price. All we had to do was give them a copy of our passport and  pay, obviously, and then that was that. These phones were then topped up (recharged with airtime) by going into the local GS 25 convenience stores or T-Money Phone shops. The only problem with this is you could only top up your phone during the week, and then we were left stranded on the weekends. But, it was just what we needed to begin with.

This option cost W30 000 for the phone and installion fee, and W10 000 usually lasted me about 10 days, so in total i was spending about W40 000 a month using that phone.

Then comes Option 2...Getting a contract phone.

This is what both Farmboy and I have done, as well as most of our friends.

Basically, how it works, is (unless you are able to take out a 2 year contract or put down a deposit of +/- 200 000 straight up to cover you fleeing the country and not paying the rest of your bill) you need to get a Korean friend/co-worker to sign you onto their cell phone contract as a beneficiary. This means you are able to take out just a yearly contract. A lot of articles (especially EPIK) has advised against doing this, and may have told some Korean Teachers not to sign their Native Teacher on their contract because what has happened in the past is Native English Teachers have left before fulfilling their contracts and the the Korean Teacher has been left to foot the bill...not cool! But if you have a good relationship with one of your co-workers, ask them, and maybe you can work something out.

So if you go with this option, there are many contracts to choose, and obviously a host of cool phones. Farmboy pays about W30 000 a month, and I pay about W40 000 which includes 200 free minutes and 200 free sms's a month...not bad hey :)

The above pictures are of the 2 phones Ive had here. The pink one on the left is the one issued with my contract, and the little one on the right is the second hand one I got when I first arrived. Don't worry, when you buy the phone they will put it in English for you so you can slowly learn to navigate yourself around it.

Th greatest thing about these phones are the chargers! One Universal charger, and each phone come with a tiny little adaptor (which you can hang on the phone) that fits into ALL and EVERY charger:

The picture below is of one the MANY MANY places you can buy contract phones, they are literally every few meters in every corner of South Korea.

If you have any other questions about phones, or anything else, please feel free to email us at

One more thing:

BLACKBERRY'S do not work over fact I haven't even seen one advertised or for sale :( which is very sad news for me too, as mine doesn't work. But they do have a number of IPhones for sale, although I don't think your Foreign IPhone will work here either. Your best off just getting a new contract phone here (very reasonable).
*This is to the best of my knowledge so far, if anyone has any experience with their smart phone working here please let us know!*


  1. The following info is from another awesome EPIK teacher (Sarah) here in Korea:

    “you can join up with LG and pay 40 000W as a downpayment for your phone(really cool new looking phones on offer) and then you dont pay anything to cancel it after one year! But it cant be less than a year. Also for the first 5 months you’ll pay about 8000w or 10 000w as a surety type thing. Although its 90 000W in total (after 5 months after receiving the phone)… you don’t need to worry about bugging co teachers for contracts or just sticking to pay as u go ”

    Thanks Sarah for that extra info!

  2. I got a contract.

    With LG, I paid 40,000W for my phone and about 40,000W for the first 3 months (the initial fees were spread out over this time). But now I pay 20,000W a month, which is quite cheap!

    It's unlimited calling between LG users, and other costs are very reasonable.