Some advice on getting cell phones in Korea (for foreigners)

Update (08-20-2012):
2012 Guide on Getting Cell Phones in South Korea (including the iPhone 4s)

Mobile Woes Over for Foreigners

By Kim Min-jung

As many of you I’m sure already know, the prospect of integrating in to an entirely new culture can be a somewhat daunting experience. Such fears can be further widened when one is without certain basic necessities.

One of those necessities is a cell phone. As phone booths in Korea have become nearly obsolete, the need for cell phones has grown exponentially. With this in mind, I want to shed some light on the services LG Telecom provides that are tailored exclusively to the needs of foreigners in Korea.

Gone are the days when one needs to be accompanied by a Korean to activate a mobile phone. One need no longer worry about what’s in the fine print nor how to benefit from the most cost-efficient cell phone plans available in the Korean market.

Furthermore, unlike other telecommunication providers, foreign customers are not required to provide a deposit nor submit credit card information to activate their cell phone plan. Instead, LG Telecom has a much lower activation fee and only asks for one’s alien registration card and Korean bank account information.

When one visits the Seoul Global Center, I will do everything I can to ensure peace of mind when setting up a cell phone plan for new users.

For those opening new accounts, I will provide a thorough breakdown of the necessary steps involved, making sure customers know what they’re signing ― every little detail. Before, such procedures often left foreigners flustered, as language barriers prevented them from taking advantage of the best rates Korea had available at the time.

Korean cell phone functions, rates and services are different from other countries. I feel that the majority of complaints from foreigners stem from such issues. To alleviate such concerns, I try to make my customers feel as comfortable as possible before I have them sign a contract.

I receive all kinds of clients at the Seoul Global Center: teachers, students, government officials, and corporate employees. Naturally, those clients have a varying degree of needs. I make it a priority to customize such needs, matching them up with the most cost effective package.

A popular option is the Korean Dream Phone Service and can be simply added to your existing plan at any time. In an exclusive partnership with KEB Bank, our clients benefit from competitive overseas calling rates and 24-hour wire transfer capabilities any day of the week directly via one’s mobile phone.

Another strategy I came up with was to put customers on a carefully selected plan and have them monitor their usage to get a clearer idea of how much time they use. I give them the option of coming back afterwards if need be so that I can better assess their plans more carefully and make appropriate changes.

Although I rarely have customers return, just having the option available to them is comforting. I also handle all matters of follow-up services such as after-service or the closing down of an account.

As the foreign community grows, there is an ever-growing need for a solid support system. The lack of convenience in activating mobile phones as of late has left many foreigners in a state of bewilderment and extreme frustration.

LG has abolished all of the frustrations that have been plaguing foreigners for so long. Those wishing to activate a cellular phone no longer need to be accompanied by a Korean translator to decipher what the fine print in the contract means.

What’s more, non-natives can now reap the benefits of exclusive features that were once elusive to them.

Essentially, the string of new services keeps clients in good hands and one step closer to Korea. Reducing all this hassle frees up valuable time that should be spent exploring and getting the most out of one’s time here.

Contact Info:

You may forward all your inquiries to me either through email or phone, or simply stop by the Seoul Global Center on the 3rd floor of the Seoul Press Center.

Mobile : 010-5740-5556
Work : (02) 2075-4134
Email :


Filed under Announcements, Communications, Expat, Korea life, Seoul, Telecommunications

46 responses to “Some advice on getting cell phones in Korea (for foreigners)

  1. Billy McGee

    Hello, I will be transfered to the Daegu, Camp Carroll area by my company in September. I would like to know what my options for cell phone service will be. I have a cell phone now, that uses a SIM card. Is that the typical type phone used in S. Korea? Will I need to buy a cell phone specifically for S. Korea? I would like to also have a land line in my apartment, (when I get one). I also typically call Thailand daily, and the USA about 1-5 times a month. I generally have no need to call other locations in the world. I am totally unfamiliar with the cell phone system (or Land Lines) in Korea. Can you clue me in on details? Thank you very much.

  2. You’ll probably need to buy another phone locally. Not sure what the military uses though for their needs. They probably have some hook up with the local authorities. You should call the numbers in this post above when you get here. They’ll help you address your questions more properly when you get here.

    In terms of calling Thailand and the U.S., I’d recommend using a service like Skype or another VOIP service. My website gives a little advice on a few services.

  3. Hello,

    Please forward all inquiries regarding your mobile concerns to my above listed work email. I will be more than happy to answer all of your cellular questions.

    Kim MinJung



  5. Lou

    hi, i will be moving to Korea soon, can i buy a cell phone there and use it in the states? Thanks

  6. Brian Watts

    Hi! I read this blog post but still have a few questions. I am going to Korea (by myself!) this summer and I need to rent/buy a phone for cheap. I will be there for about 2 months and renting seems to cost a lot! How would I just buy a phone for cheap that I could use to make a minimum amount of calls? I can’t find anything on purchasing Korean phones with “pay as you go” plans or anything.
    Thank you so much!

  7. Some phones can be programmed to be used in the U.S., but you’ll have to do your research here after you arrive…

  8. If you’re here for 2 months, I’d just rent from the airport…it also depends on your visa. If you’re here on a working visa, you can get a pre-paid plan or monthly depending on your connections. If you just need it for emergencies, just rent from the airport…

  9. youknowwho

    LG telecom is a terrible service provider. They charge really high rates without letting you know ahead of time. They charged me 1.1 million won, about $1,000 for 2 months of services and about $800 for the last one and a half months. Those were backed up fees that they never mentioned about so I was getting regular monthly fees and calling international, without realizing the huge bills that wre piling up until months later. They didn’t bill me for the international stuff until I’d been here for 5 months. And even when I significantly lowered my calling, especially overseas, they still charged me the $800 for calls I never made and services I never used. Their excuse was that they haev to use SK Telecom’s overseas services so they come at a higher rate because they still want to make a commission off of it. If that wasn’t enough, the sky phone that came with it falls apart easily, the vibration is really loud and long, and the ring tones are extremely irritating. I don’t recommend their products at all. I am cancelling my service tomorrow.

  10. Min-jung Kim(LG)

    The address in the post above no longer valid, please send all further inquires to I will be happy to answer your questions there.

    Thank you!

    –Min-jung Kim–

  11. My daughter has just bought a mobile phone in Korea and I have tryed to phone through from NZ useing country code for Korea 0082 and then her 010number but to no avail, what am I doing wrong?

    • Abhinav Tripathi

      Try 0082-10….. instead of 0082010……’0′ is a prefix for Dialing National numbers(i.e. within the country) & ’00’ is a prefix for dialing International Numbers and they are used mutually exclusive. Suppose you were living in Auckland & your Fixed Line number is 222 2222 and mobile number is 333 3333. If I were in Auckland I’d just dial 222 2222. If I were in Wellington I’d dial 09 222 2222.
      If I were in Hawaii, I’d dial 00 64 9 222 2222 not 0064 *0* 9 222 2222.

  12. meliissa

    Hii (: if i buy a cellphone in korea then it could works from other sites in the world? 😀
    ’cause I got a japanese one & quite works where am I right now… so im in a big doubt 😐
    lately i’m traveling a lot.. so that’s why o.o

  13. Chris

    Hi I am in the USA I am trying to reach my husband. He has a Korea cell phone how do I dial his cell phone from United States. his cell number is. 010-8248-4223. He live on Camp Carroll thanks for your help

  14. mari

    hi,i want to buy korean phones, i don’t know if the phones in Korea is unlocked.
    i saw this phone it is beautiful but i don’t know how can i buy here,i cannot read the korean language :

    Please Check. i want to buy the think gold edition..

  15. mari

    and will this phone work in the philippines? having an english language?…

  16. cerus

    i wanna get a new cell phone from korea bay it with my visa please tell how can i do it?

  17. Erin

    I have purchased a pre-paid phone in Korea and am wondering how much it costs to send a text to America and how much it costs to receive texts from America?

  18. Paul

    Yeah, I’m struggling to find a phone that even does basic functions that are available in Australia* right now, unless I pay the over $1000 foreigner-price for an iphone or android enabled smartphone.

    Getting a phone to make national calls and SMS is fine (albeit near unusable due to South Koreas insane rate of spam-mail), but given South Korea’s reputation for tech, one expects a tiny bit more than that.

    I mean, as a foreigner in Korea who wants to travel around the country, the MOST important feature for me by far is a decent simple web browser that lets me view English websites: namely wikitravel, facebook, hotmail (and some basic train/bus timetable sites, but these can be easily routed through google). All 3 of these websites have mobile-specific formatted versions that work without problem on basic model phones anywhere in the world… except those in South Korea it appears. In all seriousness, this level of functionality has been around since the 90s in the rest of the world, but everything here is so proprietry that anything that’s not designed to Korea’s strict, yet bizarre and utterly non-standarised web specifications simply cannot be accessed, right down to the mere Korea Herald mobile site (huh? the mainichi works!)

    In a nutshell, foreign and English language websites are inaccessible.

    * for reference, Australia is quite possibly the least wired of the G8 nations.

  19. christy

    Hi, is it possible to get a cell phone with a alien registration card at all? I’m waiting on mine to be processed but it’s taking awhile.

  20. Rhae HB

    hi, my family is moving in korea on january 24th. we’re looking for an internet, cable, phone, cellphone company. can you reccommend us d best company we could trust? thank you.

  21. vinh

    Hi, i have a friend in korea, and i’ve been calling on the cellphone, but everytime when i get through, it happens to play korean music, Does that mean the phone is diconnected?

  22. From what I remember, that’s the ringtone that callers hear while waiting for them to pickup. Does it last a while? I’m surprised they don’t pick up because in Korea, it’s a habit of Koreans to pickup regardless of the situation they’re in. It’s almost rude they don’t pick up. However, your number comes through as a “weird number” on their phone and is unfamiliar. So, maybe that’s why they don’t pick up?

    • vinh

      Thanks! It actually has this korean lady speaking in korean (probably about the number ) and then the music starts playing!! The music does last a while!

  23. KK

    Hello there, I’m currently living is Australia and planning to purchase a Korean cellphone called Nori F. Here is the website:
    However, I have heard that Korean phones are not working outside Korea so I’m wondering that whether I try buying it or not. The price is not quite high but if it’s not working then it will be wasted. Can you please email me as soon as possible? Thanks in advance 🙂 My email:

  24. Somesh Dravid

    I will be posted in seoul for next 3 years. I am planning to reach there on 18th March. Just want to know from you what is equipment cost of a smartphone in seoul ( approximate range )? I need to carry advance from my company for buying the instruments for 5 other people who are coming with me. hence the query

    Somesh Dravid

  25. regina

    Hi im from peru i will be at Korea for 2 years i will be studying a master at Seoul National University and im planning to buy a cellphone but i want to know wich one is teh rigth one and how about the prices? please i really dont know people there and my english in good but as you can see not good enough i will be there at August can you andswer me? thank you so much! i give you my e mail to you

  26. Mark Vaz


    I’m an EFL teacher with the EPIK program. I currently live and work in the Chungbuk Province. I have been here in South Korea for 2 years now and just renewed my contract for a third year.

    I actually have a cell phone… or, at least, I did up until a few days ago. When I first came to South Korea I was able to obtain a phone through a special deal between EPIK and KT-Show (now owned, I believe, by “Olleh”). This deal was for the benefit of foreign teachers who did not yet have their Alien Registration Card (ARC).

    I’ve used the phone for two years with no problems… but I inadvertently allowed my current contract with Olleh to lapse and they turned off my phone, thinking I had left South Korea for good. When I contacted them through one of my Korean co-workers, I was informed that the phone was now no good and that I would have to purchase a new one. In addition, the 50,000 won deposit I had paid to KT-Show would be refunded to me, minus any charges for the month of June.

    So now I find myself without a phone and no clue as to how to go about getting a new one. I just want a basic phone for making and receiving calls. I don’t usually text anyone because I’m not adept at typing on those tiny buttons. On my old phone I had a camera and an MP3 player but I never used them.

    Is the Seoul Global Center open on Saturdays? If so could I come in and speak with someone in English about obtaining a new phone and signing up with a new service? Otherwise, I would have to get one of my co-workers to accompany me to the local cell phone store in my area and help me with the process of signing up for service.

  27. Prince

    I reached south korea last week as corporate employee. I am from india. I will be getting my Alien ID card by this week end. I would like to know the below information
    * Is the Korean phones can be used in India?
    * What are various tarrif plans available?

  28. celina

    hello, i travelled to Korea one week ago and got a mobile phone
    + a line directly from the airport. i didn’t pay anything yet because they told me that i will settle all the call costs once i’ll be leaving. i just want to know if i can have a statement of all the calls i made trough the korean line i got so i can match them with the bill. Thanks for your help

  29. binidro

    hi i’m here in Korea for about 15 months and i have cell phone which is actually a card phone but this gadget freak want to move further buying a iphone or smartphone. few month ago i tried to buy showing my alien card but they said its possible for my visa (e-92) in my alien card. but i saw one of my friend using smartphone having the same visa. i looked at it and its “olleh” at the backside. so is this now possible to buy smartphone? or what would be the best rate plan and operator for guys like me (e-92 visa)? i would be happy to get all the updated info here about buying a smartphone!! thanx in advance

  30. angkeong

    Hi, I have been in Seoul for a month and bring in my Iphone from my home country. Is it possible to use my existing phone with new service from korean mobile provider?

  31. khokon

    hi, i m a Bangladesi, residing in Bangladesh. i wish to buy a samsung w609 cell phone from korea. how can i buy it?

  32. Just checking, I will be in Korea in December and i was wondering, If Samsung Galaxy Note(white edition) is to be launched when i am there, would it be compatible with other countries SIM card like Singapore? Just need an advice on this. Thanks

  33. mutambira

    Hi? am,i want to know whether you sell m. phones to Africa.

  34. I will be going to Korea to Study in September for a year. And wondering purchasing a phone with line or renting a phone with number, which is cheaper and also which Telecom have the lower rate for surfing net and international call? Thank you very much.

  35. Tim

    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

  36. Pingback: 2012 Guide to Getting a Cell Phone in South Korea | Living in Korea

  37. laeti

    I would like to buy a samsung in Korea, but I need to use it temporarily in Japan.
    Will the Korean SIM card work in Japan?
    Do I have to unlock for Japan?
    Will the Korean phone work in Japan?
    Later is it possible to use the Korean phone out of Korea and Japan?

    Thank you for your kind reply,
    Best regards

  38. Kathy

    Tried to send you an email, but the email apparently is no longer valid.

    I’m going to be in Seoul Mon-Wed (Oct 1-3) and am looking to purchase a Samsung Galaxy S3 on a contract/plan.

    Am I able to do this at your location at the Seoul Global Center? What cell phone provider is best? I am trying to keep my costs down but I do want a smart phone to make it easier for me to manage in Korea.

    I am a foreigner working as a teacher near Gyeryong.

  39. arman khan

    hello friend
    i want to start bussiness in korean mobile
    so where can i find the manficurers becoz its too high in the ipark market or others shops please advice me on my id
    i want to buy more then 500 units per month of smart phones and tabs

  40. therealsouthkorea

    Sorry, but I’m not that active on this blog anymore. I just saw some of your comments and approved them here.

    Nevertheless, you should just read the update with the link to a post on 8/20/2012 which tells you an easy way to get a cell phone here in Korea (if you’re able to get to Seoul.) It was the easiest method of obtaining a cell phone that I’ve seen in the 10+ years I’ve witnessed people getting phones here.

    Best of luck!
    p.s. If you don’t see the link above, it’s here:

  41. Mike.

    Why is LGT used phones are cheaper in price compared to ST/KT mobile phones?
    Are LGT mobile phones locked? – if yes, can they be unlocked?
    Do LGT mobile phones have a SIM cared technology?
    Do LGT mobile phones have the same specifications as SK/KT telephones?

  42. salvatore

    I come here after reading your nice article on some-advice-on-getting-cell-phones-in-korea-for-foreigners, looking for your help.

    I have sent three mobile phones to a friend for analysis reasons (I work in the mobile forensic field). Phones are very old but with batteries. He told me cannot send these phones back in Italy because there is a problem with the custom as there are batteries included.

    Maybe you know a company that could be allowed to send them in Italy and
    of course I will pay the required fee.

    I can use my private address, the address of the company that gave the phones or my office address (I work for Italian government).

    Thank you very much for any help you will give.


  43. Adeel

    I read your blog about helping many of us about buying a phone, i am a student at hanyang university expecting to stay here for three long years, i want to purchase an open set and use plan for my call and data use. Can you help me out that where should i can get new pin pack lg optimus g pro which i can use in my country, i.e. Pakistan
    Best wishes

  44. mohhd alteef

    i want to buy and sell mobile phones in uk.can u send me prices i phone samsung and sony original and copy korean models

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