In this day and age of instant connectivity, it is so hard to survive without a mobile network. How can you access internet on your mobile phone or contact friends upon arrival to Korea?
If you already have a phone from your country and you intend to use it in Korea, you will not be able to use it just by inserting any prepaid SIM card. You will have to first make sure that your phone is carrier unlocked. Check 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. Alternatively, you can buy a new phone with a Korean service provider in Korea. :)
Here are a few network options your can explore~
1. Prepaid Phone Plans - Tourist SIM (EG SIM)
EG SIM is often the default mobile network provider for tourists who just want a SIM card to insert into their existing phones. It is also the go-to mobile network for international students who've just landed. Some international students even use for all 4 years of their education in Korea!
EG SIM is a prepaid network service, and can last as long as you top-up your card before it expires. You can purchase your EG SIM online here before your arrival to Korea, or you can purchase it at any GS25 (a convenience store) in the airport after your arrival. It would be simpler to purchase one directly at the airport GS25 :) Just follow the instructions given in the pack with your new Korean EG SIM card to register the number, and your number is good to use! You should also download the EG SIM mobile app from Google Play Store or the Apple App Store for free. This app will allow you to check the balances in your phone.
There are two services by EG SIM that will require you to top-up regularly. These are your phone's voice balance, and data balance. The expiry of the voice balance varies, while your data balance lasts a month after a top-up.
You can top-up your voice balance with any of following 3 methods:
To top-up your data balance, simply use the EG SIM mobile app you've downloaded. The top-up for data balance works by a transfer of money from your voice balance into your data balance. The data plan you've bought will last a month.
2. Postpaid Phone Plans - KT olleh, SKT, LG U+, etc
Postpaid plans are the most commonly used in Korea, and are those plans with a fixed package per month, where you are billed at the end of the month based on the flat rate, with any additional charges you incur.
Before you consider which phone plan to sign on for, do check if you have fulfilled the following requirements:
Once you have fulfilled the above requirements, the next step is to decide which mobile telecomm to sign up with. The more common and well-known companies are KT olleh, SKT and LG U+. Prices for the respective plans under the companies differ according to your monthly data package. In terms of price, SKT is considered to be the most expensive out of the three. However, it also has most coverage in terms of network. LG U+ is also popular because of its high internet speed. KT olleh is the most student-friendly, as it regarded as more affordable than the other two. In particular, their Y24 plan for those under the age of 24 years, allows for 3 hours of unlimited data per day, along with your selected monthly data package.
After selecting the telecomm carrier you wish to use, visit a physical store to sign up for your line!
The monthly payment will be deducted from your Korean bank account, and it is advised for you to download the relevant apps to check your data usage, as well as monthly bill.
It is advisable to go along with a Korean friend, or someone who is relatively fluent (though they might not know some technical phrases), as the staff might not be able to communicate fluently in English. If you are planning to visit a store in Songdo, there are several at Campus Town Avenue which allow you to create phone lines (in fact, the olleh store there has a staff who is able to speak English!). You can also visit Haekyung, or Square 1. You can also travel down to Seoul, as there are many stores in tourist-frequented areas with English-speaking staff, such as in Hongdae, Gangnam or Myeongdong. Do note that you are only able to sign up for new phone lines during weekday office hours (Mon - Fri, approx. 9am to 7pm).
However, what if you're a minor (refer to above requirement on age)?
It is possible for you to get a Korean friend, who is of legal age, to sign the phone line for you. 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 cannot 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. As such, it is advisable to use method (1) instead, until you are able to sign for a permanent postpaid line.