Getting a cellphone in Korea


When I met my Pinay friends last Saturday, we also talked about how difficult it is for a foreigner (anybody who doesn’t have a Korean ID) to get a cellphone in Korea. After dinner, we went to a cellphone kiosk where one of my friends (K) asked if she could buy a phone. She asked another friend (J) to help her since she couldn’t speak Korean well.

Mobile phone stores here are as ubiquitous as in the Philippines, but back home it’s so much easier to own a phone. You just walk into a store, choose the unit you like and pay. That’s it. No need for an ID nor a credit card. Here in Korea, all you need to get a cellphone is a Korean ID and your bank account or credit card since bill payment is made electronically. However, if you don’t have a Korean ID it’s so difficult to have a cellphone.

There are three big networks here: LG Telecom, KTF and SK Telecom. The first two charges 30,000 won for connection while the latter, 55,000 won. In my friend’s case, she wanted a phone issued by SK. The seller asked for her ARC (Alien Registration Card), then he called an office to ask if they could issue her a phone. The person on the other line said it’s possible but she needs to have a credit card. Now getting a credit card is even more difficult and almost impossible for foreigners. Her option is to pay the 200,000 won deposit for SK or have a friend who has a Korean ID to apply for her. She just gave up and thought that she’ll just do it later.

When we were at the cellphone store, I had the chance to scan the new phones on display. I’ve been eyeing the Viewty phone by LG. It’s still expensive at 359,000 won, so I guess that’ll just have to wait.


  1. I wanted the Viewty so badly, but alas, it is only available as an import, and costed $800. iPhone is not that much fun after the novelty of touching the screen wears off, but the rich color of the Viewty made me melt.

    Are cellphones as necessary in Korea as they have become in the states? That’s a serious drag that you have to go through so much as a foreigner. And which service is the best (best reception)? Is it the most expensive one, or that just gives you the best phones?

      1. Actually she can. I have a Nokia E71 and it requires a USIM, if you sign with KT you can use your phone. Do some research online to see if anyone else has used your model. That’s how I knew mine would work. You will have to register your phone through the KCC website first but once that’s done you can take the phone w/the registration to a KT Global store and they will help.

  2. I have an iPhone and I was asking everywhere How can I get a Chip for my cellphone, but nobody knows what is a Chip :s, everybody has smartphone here but nobody can sell one. That’s weird :s

Leave a Reply