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!


5 Bicycle Tips (Kyoto, Japan) Part 1

There’s no doubt that the best transportation option for getting around Kyoto is by a bicycle!

For that purpose, here are 5 tips to keep in mind.

  1. You obviously do not need a license to ride a bicycle, but what you do need is to register your bicycle when purchasing it either new or second-handedly.
  2. If there are no bicycle lanes on the sidewalks, ride on the side closest to the street.  Remember that the traffic is the opposite way so try to pass on the right.
  3. You are legally required to stay on the left side of the streets.  You may notice many Japanese do not exactly obey this, but I recommend trying your best to.
  4. Bicycles are legally treated as vehicles therefore the penalties are graver than you would imagine.  Thus, it’s best if you obeyed the lights and other traffic regulations.
  5. You cannot park your bicycle just anywhere you wish.  Bicycles are a huge part of the Kyoto lifestyle and therefore there are places to avoid parking your bicycle at so as to maximize traffic flow and minimize accidents.  These no parking or no standing spots are clearly marked by signs so be sure to double-check the area before deciding to park your bike there.  If you do happen to park in such a spot, the police may confiscate it and transport it elsewhere.  If you were that unlucky, check the nearest no parking sign to check where the location is and head there to pick it up.  You will be fined at least $20.  I heard that some places where you can rent bicycles from reimburse you, but you should re-confirm that before renting and relying on that piece of info.

And that’s it for now!  Look forward to the following 5 tips as I’m sure there will be at least 5 more!

In the meantime, what do you think about the bicycle registration regulation in Japan?  Do you think it’s ridiculous?  Let me know!

Episode 4 – Japanese Student Life (1)

I officially survived my first week as a Japanese language student!

It was no easy feat!  This week we had a daily Kanji, Chinese characters used in the Japanese language, exam along with loads of homework assignments!  I basically studied in class, obviously, but also right after classes finished to around midnight/1am daily.  Things will slow down a bit, it’s just like this in the beginning because everything should be a review from the first class; but since many students simply entered the school at this level, not everyone is on the same exact page yet.  I can easily state that my weakness is Kanji at this point, I can read them but writing is a different story; so many little details!

My weekly schedule at this point in time is below.  We have 45min class intervals with 10 minute breaks.  We have specific classes for reading, writing, speaking, grammar, etc.  There are also elective classes available that simply either reinforces your language abilities or your cultural awareness which is probably why my schedule will change!  I’m interested in taking a vocabulary, current news, and Kyoto culture electives!

  • M,W,F – 9am – 12:30pm
  • T,R – 9am – 3:10pm

3 Unique Japanese School Culture Differences:

  1. Attendance is very significant, you can fail even if you ace all the exams; there’s no leniency and also includes lateness
  2. We are not allowed to eat or drink during class, if we want to it has to be during the 10 minute breaks
  3. Shouldn’t go to the bathroom during class either, should be done during the 10 min breaks

Life outside school

This past week I got a new phone!  Except it is a flip-phone… I went from an iPhone 5 to a Samsung 740SC flip-phone.  Well, I didn’t have a phone for over a month so I guess I’ll settle with this just fine!  It’s about $30 for 2 months with unlimited text with same carrier customers, unlimited emails, and about 25 minutes of talk.  This will save me a lot of money considering it was about $70/month for an iPhone 5s.  Other than the phone, guess what I’ve been eating?!  Every night of this week, I had ramen!  Packaged ramen that is!  I have two different kinds, soy and miso; they’re good but I’m getting tired of ramen.  Why am I still eating only ramen for supper then?  It’s all I’ve got at home and when I’m coming home from school at 7-9pm on a daily basis, I can’t bother to get other groceries.  I’m also budgeting so eating out isn’t an appealing offer, plus I eat out for lunch already!  And, I’m actually quite broke right now without access to my other funds because I’m waiting for my debit card to arrive!!  It’s been 3 weeks already so I’m annoyed with the customer service they’ve been giving me; might write a post on that in the future after things settle down in the matter.

I don’t think I fully presented my case on the workload, just think of it this way:  waking up at 7am, being at school from 9-12/3, and studying at a cafe from then to 8, coming home to cook, clean and shower, then back to studying till 1am and off to wonderland; only to do it all over again the next day!  Don’t get me wrong though!  I’m enjoying it!  At first, I was completely overwhelmed but I’m getting used to the kind of work and in my studious mode!  It’s fun learning new things about the language, one step closer to adding Japanese to my background!  It’s exciting!  I also have quite an attractive sensei!  She’s adorable and awesome!  It only adds to the education right? 😉  Don’t judge lol