I’m sure alot of people know that it’s a real hassle for foreigners to get a phone in Korea, particularly if you are staying for a period that’s not too long, but yet not too short. I had loads of problems finding a decent tutorial on it, so I’ll try to be as detailed as possible here.

If you are in Korea for…

1. less than 2 weeks: rent a Korean phone with a prepaid card at the airport

2. a few weeks to less than 3 months: rent a Korean phone with a prepaid card at the telecos outlets. (less expensive than the airport, but probably you need a Korean with you). If you are studying somewhere, the university should have such service (yonsei does) in the campus. You still need to speak Korean.

My situation: I’m in Korea for around 4 months or so and I want to use my own smartphone and I want a data plan.

Expat Blog KT offers a decent amount of information on both prepaid and postpaid phone plans for foreigners, so that will be a good starting point to check out the prices. The following will be a simple tutorial on how to get a 3G postpaid phone plan using your own smartphone. Please read the website first!

Step 1: check with your own home teleco provider to check if your smartphone is unlocked.

Step 2: If it is, you are good to go. If it’s not, you have to find some way of unlocking it.

Step 3: If you are registering the line under your name, you need to have your Alien Registration Card. It takes approximately TWO weeks for it to be approved.

Step 4: Bring your phone to any of the global stores to get it checked and registered. The process takes around 30 minutes

Step 5: Choose a postpaid plan and register it. If I’m not wrong, it’s terribly troublesome for the foreigner to register a postpaid plan in their own name. You need a Korean bank account, and from what I’ve read online, they may require deposit money which is rather expensive!

Step 6: You get to choose the last 4 digits of your number. The typical number in Seoul is 010-XXXX-YYYY. Of course, it’s not a guarantee that you get it, but most likely you do! I got to choose the first number of X also among a few choices (2,3,4) and the rest of the number is decided by the person. But he did ask me whether I liked it anot, so I assume you do have a few choices, although not a free rein.

What I did: I’m very very very lucky to have a Korean friend who let me registered the line under his name ^^ Basically he handled everything for me and all I needed to do is pay him the phone bill every month. xD There is no processing time and the service is activated immediately! Including the 3G. Korean companies really have excellent service!

It’s very helpful if you have a Korean friend who is willing to help you. I don’t even need to wait for my ARC (which I have not done) and there is no extra costs or any deposit money involved.

If you get a i-rate plan for smartphones, you can free access to wifi and Korea is pretty much very very connected. You can free wifi in subway, cafes, restaurants etc. Of course, I don’t get it in my hostel D: KU has its own free wifi system which I’ll be able to access soon! Basically, I’ll be quite connected and contented using wifi!

Although the plan is expensive, it’s really convenient. ^^ Most of the places don’t offer their own unlocked free wifi, so you need to be registered with a teleco in order to enjoy the service. The only places I know which offer free, open wifi is Cafe Bene and Toms Toms.

Other tips:

  • you need your passport if you want to register for a prepaid phone line. your passport will be on hold for 2 weeks for the processing of the ARC. So this means you need to plan carefully if you want to get a prepaid phone for the few weeks before getting a postpaid plan. ^^
  • I went to the global store at Gwanghwamun. It’s really easy to access. Get off at Line 5 Gwanghwamun station, use exit 2. Once you get out, turn to your right and it’s the KT building!
  • Although its a global store, there aren’t many employees who speak English. When I was there during lunch time, she was away. She did came back later at the end. But her English, although decent, is quite accented. Best to get a Korean friend to go with you
  • Most Koreans go for the unlimited data plan which is 55,000won a month (not inclusive of 10% VAT). However it can be quite costly for foreigners and students. However, you can get a less expensive plan, and if the need arises, you can change the plan later.
  • There is no contract period if you are NOT getting a subsidized handset, so it’s a month by month service.
  • Additional service will incur additional charges and you are free to add them later on if the need arises.


hahaha I think I was really in a bad condition today. My brain totally shut down at the KT store and I couldn’t speak any Korean. O.o For the first time, someone commented that I can’t really speak Korean. hahahaha. which is quite true xD

I hope the tutorial is helpful to a small extent! ^^ If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you (to the best of my abilities).