Mobile phones, sometimes referred to as ‘hand’ or ‘handy phones’, are widely available. Almost all service providers require foreign residents to pay a security deposit over and above the purchase price of the phone however.
Some KT and LG Telecom locations allow foreign nationals to register for a regular service, with monthly payments made through the customer's Korean bank account or Korean credit card.
Prepaid mobile phones are easier to obtain but you must still purchase the phone and the charge per minute is much higher than with other payment plans.
Used phones can sometimes be bought for as little as W5,000. To register a mobile phone you must be at least 18 years of age, present your alien registration card and passport, show your Korean credit card (in some cases) and have a Korean guarantor (if you don’t have one, you will be required to pay a further deposit that can be high.
Most non-Koreans are only allowed to register for pre-paid card phones. Moreover, since pre-paid cell phone calls are non-traceable some companies require the account holder to return to the provider every three months to confirm his or her identity. Some offices try to rip foreigners off – beware! If in doubt call 120 for unbiased mobile phone information.
Non-Korean mobiles, even Korean brands, will not work on the Korean network, nor can you use SIM cards. Short term mobile phone rentals are available – the major networks have booths at Incheon International Airport. English-menu mobile phones are now widely available. Smart Phones are now available in Korea. SK sells the Blackberry while iPhones can be obtained through KT. Samsung, LG and other Korean companies are also entering the market with their own products. Foreign nationals will not find it easy to get a smart phone, however.
Links to the main Korean mobile phone service providers: