Getting a prepaid phone

I posted last week that I will be getting a UMPC and a cellphone in time for school. South Korea’s population is about 48 million and more than 40 million owns a cellphone (휴대폰 hyu-dae-pon, 핸드폰 haen-d-pon) and I belong to that 8 million people, mostly children (?), who don’t own one.
[singlepic=575,250,250,left]I could’ve gotten a phone earlier but I didn’t think it was necessary then. Since I’ll be going to school this fall, my husband suggested that I get a phone. I’ve been searching since Monday and I’ve decided to go to the prepaid route. I can get a new phone for free (공짜폰 kong-jja-pon) with a 12-month plan. I wanted to get the “Mini skirt” phone from Samsung but I really just need one for calls and SMS. The subway map would come in handy but I surprise even Koreans with my “navigation” skills when it comes to Seoul. So basically I’m looking for a phone that will allow me to make calls and send/receive SMS and has a dictionary.
If I decide to get the “Mini skirt” phone plan, I’d have to pay 1 won for the unit, 30,000 won (US$30) for registration and a basic monthly charge of 14,000 won (US$14) with calls charged at 18 won per 10 seconds. I won’t need to pay for calls received, unlike in the US.
With a prepaid phone (선불폰 seon-bul-pon), I can get an old second-hand phone for free and an initial charge of 20,000 won (US$20). There’s a monthly connection charge of 4,500 won (US$4.50). (To cover the cost of admin jobs). A call is 33 won/10 seconds and 20 won (US$ 0.02) for SMS. Luckily, a used phone that has a dictionary is available at the store I went to. I will just need to pay 20,000 won (US$20) for it since it’s newish (2007 model). I’m delaying to get a phone until the third week of July.
Even tourists in Korea can get a prepaid phone. However, it would be disconnected after 90 days unless an ARC (alien registration card) is presented. I should’ve known about this when Tesha and Angela were here.


  1. Sayang! I would have been textmates with **** if Angela and I had a working phone when we were there hehe. We brought along 4 (Nokia N75, Motorola Razr, Pantech, and Sony Ericsson), and not one worked.
    Nonetheless, it is good to note that even if 40 million people in Korea own mobile phones, there are still many phone booths where we were able to place calls (and where Superman could take his clothes off haha 🙂 )
    Teshas last blog post..Pisay the Movie OST

  2. Tesha, Korea uses CDMA protocol for their mobile network.
    Which means your GSM phones will not work.
    CDMA is used in Korea, Canada, and United States.
    GSM is especially popular in Europe and South East Asia.

  3. Well the CDMA thing is not entirely true nowadays, S. Korea’s 3G network W-CDMA compatible now (KTF and SK Telecom) so in theory those 3G Nokia, Sony Erricson phones should work here. Problem is South Korean sim cards are locked to only Korean phones.
    Emils last blog post..Information Superhighway at 35,000 ft

  4. I am confused… It looks like the prepaid option is much better? You get a more expensive phone that you could sell and get some money back, or just keep to reduce your next 12-month contract (if there is one).
    That is interesting about the received calls thing! I would need less than half my minutes!

  5. i have a question, where can i get a prepaid phone if i’m just going to stay for 10 weeks? thank you!

    1. Hey) You can go to Tongdemun street in Seoul…There are a lot of phone shops there….and..yep)) if you wanna made international call to Philippines , without buying international card, you can use international call service… (for example, KT international service: 00 345 + country code + area code + phone number)

  6. “CDMA is used in Korea, Canada, and United States.”
    Does this mean that if I buy a brand new phone in Korea, it will work in Canada when i get back? (presumably i’d have to unlock it).. What should I look for to be sure?
    Or vice versa, if I brought a phone from Canada, should that work? (i’d probably go with the first plan, anyway, but i’m just curious)
    Thanks, I’m moving in a couple of weeks and i’ve spent the past few hours trying to figure this crap out… i wish we could all just agree to one standard, globalization my butt 🙂

  7. hi there,
    first of all have to say – great job on the blog! i found it really interesting 🙂
    there’s something that i hope u can shed some light on – my sister is head-over-heels in love with the new samsung anycall haptic (ofcourse what with it being promoted by her fav korean groups..) and her birthday is coming up. I thought of actually making her wish come true by getting her one of this and coincidentally a friend would be going to seoul soon.
    I know that the model is not available outside the s.korean market so my worry is that it might not be usable. do you know whether the phone would be locked..or would it help if i get a prepaid phone.. would be great if u can help 🙂

  8. handy information this bit “Even tourists in Korea can get a prepaid phone. However, it would be disconnected after 90 days unless an ARC” have a friend out teaching english in Korea at the moment, think he had a few issues with getting a phone out there, i guess it cant be that difficult thou.

  9. I have a nokia 5800 which is actually 3G phone, i m in suwon now.
    Where can i get connection from SKT or KTF???
    main problem for me is language, if anyone can suggest me near by location where i can go and buy a new connection, that would be highly appreciated.


  10. Hi Its really a nice blog. I am having a Corby CDMA which i used in India. But here in Suwon I tried with one Sm card which didnt worked. Can you please tell me which Connection in South Korea will work in my Corby CDMA
    .-= Arup´s last blog ..Just Borned =-.

    1. hi Arup! it would be better if you go to the phone companies… usually, phone connections here are tied up with the networks

  11. Good day. I’m just worried of the phone that about to send here in the Philippines by my sister in Korea. The unit is Nokia 5800. Can it be used here in the Philippines? Thanks


  12. All,
    I have just arrived to Seoul last month, and now I want to have a brand new korean cell phone. However, I want to have a long lasting one, means that I want to use the cell phone when I get back to Indonesia. Can I do that?
    Indonesia actually has two network systems, one is GSM and the other is CDMA. So, if Korea use the CDMA, I think I can use the phone in Indonesia.
    The problem with me now is language, so many cell phone shops are not using English. It is so hard to communicate. Is there any shop that can communicate with English?
    Thanks and regards

  13. I just moved to Seoul and bought my phone from My recruiter referred me to them. I ordered the phone for $40 online and the phone was waiting with some other things I ordered at my school when I got there. It couldn’t have been easier.

  14. Hi all,
    please help me. next week i will going to seoul. i’m a little bit confused about the prepaid fhone. i plan to have a prepaid fhone there, just only to use for a week. is there any just a simple way that just only buy a prepaid sim card and put it on our fhone? can i just bring my fhone and buy the prepaid sim card there?? i’m using Blacberry and Nokia (no 3G)
    some one please help me with this…
    kindly need u guys help..

  15. Wise move, getting a prepaid phone is the smart way to go. No contracts is always good. I don’t know how it is in South Korea but here in the US, prepaid providers use contract provider coverage so you get the same exact service with prepaid and now with the prepaid providers offering smartphones with unlimited plans, you really don’t miss a thing when on prepaid.

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