There are a shitload of sources out there and I wanted to briefly summarize what you’ll need to know.
- Shit happens all the time – Korea is a fast-paced economy and has the same kind of lifestyle so changes happen very frequently so the specifics may vary when you’re reading this
- You need your ARC (Alien Registration Card), or at least the print-out receipt from the office when you applied, and a bank account
- There are about 3 major providers – KT (Olleh), SKT (TWorld), and LG
- The whole process takes at least 20 minutes
- You’ll need to pay 25,000 KRW (may vary) since you’re a foreigner and they need some assurance
You’ve got a lot to choose from if you’re thinking of purchasing a new phone. Used phones depends on the store’s inventory. You can purchase used phones from some stores and/or online in Korea, but I took a look and they’re not quite up-to-date; I was looking for a used iPhone 6 but there were none out – however I’m sure you can find some in America’s used market. One thing you should know is that just like in Japan, the camera’s shutter is designed to display the shutter sound and there’s no option to turn it off, not even in silent mode is it off, but you can download an application to get rid of the annoying sound once and for all so I’ve heard.
From the stores that I’ve checked-out, the posters displaying their options of phone plans are just a piece of what is available. I spent maybe an hour or more at one store looking at plans and more than half-way through he realized that there were more options that better suit my interests; see I was interested in a low-minute and high-data plan for cheap. In the end I settled for 100 minutes and 6GB of data per month. It’s running me about $80/month, including the phone’s price. Now, this is on a two-year contract. I heard and saw something briefly on one-year contracts, but they’re rare and limited to my belief. I think they’re only available for certain phones. You may be able to get a one-year contract if you already have an unlocked phone. Also, I was hoping to only get an unlimited 3G plan but they told me that it was unavailable – I don’t know if it’s because it’s paired up with an iPhone 6 or if they got rid of their 3G plans when LTE started to become prominent. I read a couple of articles on it but they were a bit confusing to be honest; yeah, they were in English too – maybe it’s me… Best bet is to find someone who can speak English to review all your options, if you’re trying to be smart that is. One other thing I should mention is that since it is a two-year contract, if you cancel after only one year you will have to pay the rest of your phone off. And based on your phone plan, the price of the phone varies; the more expensive your plan, the more expensive your phone is. This is because they give you some sort of discount based on how much your plan is and every month you’re paying off your phone for a total of 24 months – so if you cancel after 12, you have half left.
I confirmed that they will automatically withdraw the monthly bill from your bank account on the 21st starting from the following month. Remember the “foreigner assurance” fee I mentioned before? That’s all you have to pay for a brand new phone and contract, for the moment that is. As for opening a bank account, you’ll also need the ARC or the number at least, and your passport. I went with a co-teacher and they did all the talking while the teller kept marking signature locations on a bunch of documents all in Korean. I must’ve signed at least 15 times in 20 minutes – awfully a lot in my opinion. The pattern I see is that they like confirmation for each significant section of a contract, and not just the full contract where you sign at the bottom.
KT seems to be #1 in Korea and you’ll see the Olleh wifi spots everywhere. I asked around to see which was the best in my area and they told me SKT so I just went with them.
Have fun navigating Korea’s wonders!