[SEP] Getting a mobile phone plan in Korea

Here’s the entry many of you are asking for!

I finally went to get my own Korean phone number, which is very much needed because I really need unlimited 3G Data, plus cheaper phone calls and messages! Unfortunately, this is not easy for foreigners who are here for a short while, because you either don’t have a foreigner social security number or that you aren’t sure about the contracts terms etc.

I got mine at SK Telecom! Actually, I personally recommend Olleh KT to foreigners, especially if you can’t speak Korean. Olleh KT seems more friendly to foreigners because they provide their phone plans in English: http://expatblog.kt.com/ 

Whereas I don’t think there’s any to be found on SK Telecom’s site.

But my Korean friend Ahlia is a loyal SK Telecom customer for years so she brought me to SK Telecom instead. It doesn’t matter to me because anyway, my friend is the one speaking most of the time. I don’t really have a big issue with them only speaking in Korean either, because it’s not really rocket science anyway. But if you’re the sort who really wants to know your plan in detail, go to an English-speaking service center instead!

So she brought me to one of the service centers in Guwol-dong, Incheon. For those of you who wants to get a mobile phone contract, refer to Olleh KT’s blog for more information on their global centers. Unless you want one from SK Telecom too. It’s really the same to me. Basic fees are also similar, if not almost identical.

I brought along my Samsung Galaxy S3, which I bought in Singapore not long ago. In Korea, they use something called USIM, which looks just about the same as my miroSIM card from Starhub. I didn’t have any problems at all. My Samsung Galaxy S3 is compatible with the USIM card from SK Telecom, and it worked almost immediately.

So for those who wants to do the same, whether with SK Telecom or Olleh KT, here’s a list of things that you need:

1. A phone. If you are bringing one from your country, call your service provider to check if the phone is unlocked. My friend told me that all phones bought in Singapore are unlocked. I guess that’s why I didn’t face a problem with my Galaxy S3. Also, Korea uses WCDMA network, so please bring a phone that is WCDMA 2100mHz-compatible. iPhones, Samsung Galaxy phones will work perfectly in Korea, but I’m not sure about other phones, so call up and check.

2. Alien Registration card (if you have)

If you don’t have an Alien Registration card, you can bring along a Korean friend and use his/her name to get your line, and pay him or her your mobile phone bills every month. I actually tried with my passport first, but it’s not allowed sadly. And anyway it takes so long for foreigners to get a line for some reason. If you have a Korean friend who is willing to help, please do ask him or her!


Yeap, a very simple list! In return for a normal phone line that gives me unlimited 3G Data, 300minutes free calls and 4000won worth of free messages (one message is probably like, erm, less than 20won?). All for 54,000won a month.

It’s actually quite expensive because of the unlimited 3G data. You can opt for the 500MB one at 44,000 but only 10,000won cheaper, so I rather get the 54,000won and in return, I don’t need to worry about using up my free data.

You can also choose your own numbers too, as long as it’s available. The last four digits of your phone number is entirely up to your choice, while the first four digits will be subjected to availability.

For the record, I did not get 0606 as my last 4 digit number. haha.

Also, this is a phone plan, but NOT a contract, so I don’t have to pay anything when I cancel this line 6 months later (that’s if I’m going back).

Contracts are for those who are staying in Korea for up to or more than 2 years. You can get a Samsung Galaxy S3 for free by signing a contract and pay the monthly bills for 2 years (sometimes 3 years).

I have to pay 49,500won more for the USIM though, but whatever, I have a Korean phone number now! Makes life so much easier! ^^

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  1. Frank

    I am glad I found your article, it’s great to read I can bring my WCDMA 2100 compatible smart phone and just purchase a USIM card.

    The one thing that isn’t yet clear to me, what are the conditions of the “phone plan”
    Do you pay monthly in cash like a pre-paid plan? or is the amount (in your case 54,000won) charged from your Korean bank account?

    From what I understood you did sign a 1 or 2 year contract but you can cancel it without having to pay any penalty after six months right?

    Although I will be coming to Seoul and plan to stay for about 2 years I do prefer to sign a two year contract. This “new” phone plan seems ideal for me but wonder if others providers like SK might be cheaper?

    • wonderrrgirl

      Hi Frank, this is just like a normal phone plan in which you’ll pay the bills when it comes every month, depending on your usage. The basic fee that I have to pay is 54,000won, and if I use any extra service, such as making an international call, the additional charges will apply on top of that basic fee.
      And yes, they charge it from a korean bank account.

      I actually just got a phone plan. It is not really a ‘contract’, so I am free to cancel it after I’m done with my stay in Korea. A ‘Contract’ refers to the kind when you want to get, e.g. a Samsung Galaxy S3 for free or a very low cost, while also sign up for a new line. This comes with a 2-3 years contract, and if you cancel it before that, you will have to pay a penalty.

      As I am not staying there for 2-3 years, it will be unwise for me to get a cheap/free smartphone via the contract. Therefore, I only just got a phone plan, with no cheap/free smartphone with it.

      So to clarify again,
      My phone plan will be the same as another person who got this plan via the contract. The only difference is he/she must fulfill the 2-3 year contract without canceling it.

      As you will be in Seoul for 2 years, I suggest that you get a phone contract too. The price range is pretty much similar. A plan like mine (unlimited 3G data plan, 300 voice calls, 4000won of free messages etc) cost 54,000won with SK Telecom, and the same (or 55,000won approx) from Olleh KT.

      If you don’t speak Korean, or is uncomfortable with signing anything that isn’t in English, do go to Olleh KT, where they have more English services available at their global stores in Gwanghwamun, Itaewon, Gangnam – all pretty convenient places. Refer to the website I’ve given above for more information. :)

  2. Jane

    Hi Alice, great for you to have settled you phone plan. It will make you more convenient to contact your friends in Korea and use the data from your S3 phone.. haha.. ohh and by the way, you’re going to BKK for Hyun Joong’s fan meet too? Do you know which hotel he will be staying in Bangkok? All the best to you…

    • wonderrrgirl

      Hi Jane.
      Yes, I will be going to Bangkok.

      As for hotel, I don’t think it is right, convenient or proper to reveal it publicly because the information does not belong to me and secondly, they do not want too many fans to flood the entire hotel. Hope you understand.

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  4. andreakei

    Hey Alice,

    I recently got my new cell phone plan from sk telecom- the same 54000 one you signed up for and when the lady asked for a debit bank number (i didnt have a friend with me and the googletranslate said that) i wasnt sure what she meant. None of my foreign bank cards worked. The sales lady filled her number for me instead. She said it would terminate after a month, so what was i supposed to give to her? My bank acct number? Or was it something else?

    I was also wondering if i was paying 49500 the first time round, her explanation wasn’t so clear for that too. Im sorry for bombarding you with these questions, i hope they made sense. Thanks!!!

  5. Jacquelyn

    Hi Alice! I just sent you an email regarding phone rental, looking forward to hear from you! xx

  6. CJ

    Is it possible to get a data-only plan? I don’t want a phone number, I just want a 3G/4G internet connection. I plan on using Skype for my phone since I can link it to my Google Voice account. So is data-only an option?

  7. Kaela

    For the record, as of around July 14th last year, 2013, the rules have changed. Foreigners staying in Korea on a student visa are not permitted to make a contract and can only have pre-paid plans, or have a contract made under a Korean friend/homestay family’s name.

    I found that out a week after they changed the rule when I broke my phone and had been considering just buying a used one and switching over to a contract since I’m here for several years….If you wish to purchase a new or used phone through the telecommunication company you will have to pay the full market price up front, instead of the monthly payments, because foreigners had been making contracts and then leaving the country before their contract was up, costing the companies thousands of dollars. :-(

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