Getting a Cell Phone in Korea

There are a shitload of sources out there and I wanted to briefly summarize what you’ll need to know.

Quick Tips:

  1. 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
  2. You need your ARC (Alien Registration Card), or at least the print-out receipt from the office when you applied, and a bank account
  3. There are about 3 major providers – KT (Olleh), SKT (TWorld), and LG
  4. The whole process takes at least 20 minutes
  5. You’ll need to pay 25,000 KRW (may vary) since you’re a foreigner and they need some assurance

Cell Phones

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.

Phone Plans

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.

Bank Account

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!


KICL – 3 pros

KICL (Kyoto Institute of Culture and Language) is a Japanese language school based in Sakyo ward, NE of downtown Kyoto.  It’s a great language school with connections to sister schools allowing a more university campus lifestyle.  When I first came to Kyoto I met some other language students but from another school, ARC Academy, and when they heard that I was going to be attending KICL, they were all shocked and asked isn’t it going to be difficult?  I honestly had no idea what was in store.  

I specifically chose KICL over ARC Academy because of the campus life available through KICL’s sister schools.

Although I do not know the specifics of ARC Academy’s requirements, standards and pace, I can vouch for KICL being a tough language school.  KICL is known for giving their students the abilities to attend a Japanese university or find work in Japan, thus their syllabus is mainly geared towards that objective.  Whatever your reason for studying Japanese is, you will learn what you need to learn here at KICL.

You will learn Japanese here at this school.

  • They only teach in Japanese and even without knowing any Japanese beforehand, you will learn to understand everything in the classroom.
  • If you are a complete beginner, do not worry, there are translated materials allowing a much easier transition.  From what I know, they have English, French, Italian, Thai, Chinese/Taiwanese, and Indonesian.  The textbook is the almighty Minna no Nihongo so there might be other languages as well.

5 days a week, Monday through Friday.

  • Normal classes are held M-F from 9am-12:30pm.  There are two other mandatory afternoon classes which was Tuesday and Thursday last semester, but this semester they have one afternoon class varying depending on your JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) level.
  • Yes, one of the two mandatory afternoon classes is a JLPT class.  You will be provided a JLPT textbook and go over practice problems once a week in hopes to prepare you for the exam.  Even if you do not plan to take the exam, you are required to go to class.  I will say that even if you have no interest in the JLPT, the class is good in enforcing what you learn during regular class and even help you learn more material.
  • The other afternoon class is a supplemental class providing information on Japan, it’s culture and such.  Although it may seem overwhelming, and you will probably think it is overwhelming when you start, in the end it is a great way to be exposed to the Japanese language and culture.

From day one you are to study grammar, writing, reading, speaking, and listening.

  • It will be challenging but it’s a great format for all kind of learners.  For me, it’s difficult for me to learn and remember new vocabulary without seeing it in writing.  Others may learn better from hearing new vocabulary, either way you will be pushed to utilize what you learn through the textbook and class towards grammar, writing, reading, speaking and listening.
  • Since it is difficult to cover all five grounds at the same time, some may feel that one is more emphasized than the other.  I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted out of learning Japanese, but I knew that I wanted to be able to carry out conversations in Japanese.  Knowing that, I soon came to realize that we didn’t have enough conversation time during classes.  The classes are interactive, but for me not knowing any other foreign languages at the time, being able to think and speak in a new language came last.
  • But if you take into consideration that this language school is known for getting their students to universities or find a job, it may make sense that they would focus less on conversational skills.  Or that it will come naturally once you know the basic grammar and vocabulary.  Well, what I’m saying is that it’s a common complaint about KICL amongst its students.

Also, I would like to point out that there are more language schools other than ARC Academy and KICL.  I think that these two are simply the most popular or well-known at the moment.  There are a lot of other language schools in this university city.