Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Getting a cellphone in Korea: my experience

One of the first ground “rules” my parents established before I left for South Korea was for me to have a cellphone. With my disability, my parents want to be able to reach me easily and for me to be able to call for help if needed… plus it’s neat to have a phone when you’re in a city where you have friends! haha

I knew this was going to be a challenge as South Korea only allows people who have a visa or a Korean social number to create an account… neither of which I have. To my knowlegge, there are 2 options out there for tourists who wish to have a phone: rental or prepaid.

Rental can be a great option if you are staying in Korea for less then 4-5 days as rental fees are around 30 000₩ to 40 000₩ daily. I’m staying in Korea for 10 days so rental was out of question.

Prepaid is a little bit more complicated then rental. I did the mistake of not getting my phone at the airport… I was too busy thinking about the comfy bed waiting for me in gangnam.

My first shot at getting a prepaid phone was at a SK Telecom shop in Myeongdong. Unfortunately, the lady did not speak a single word of English so after both gesturing for a few minutes, she called a translator who later explained to me that I couldn’t get a phone because I needed to get a phone, preferably a second-handed device, before setting up an account.

I later called a good Korean friend of mine who accompanied me to another SK Telecom shop in Gangnam where he acted as a translator between the representative and me. Here are a few tips from my (well our) experience in getting a prepaid cellphone.

  • Passport and Visa

To set up a prepaid account, you don’t need to have a Korean social number (at least with SK). However, you will need to present your passport and visa depending on your country of residence and most importantly, wait 3 days since you have arrived before even trying to set up an account. As explained by our representative, it takes a little bit of time for customs to process the information that you have entered the country so if SK can’t find you in their system they can’t set up an account.

  • Bring cash

If you’re lucky enough and the SK Telecom that you visit sells second handed phones, you will need to pay for it and they only take cash.

  • Bring a good friend with you

Having a friend explaining you the details of setting up a account in English is pretty convenient and should you run into trouble setting everything up, your good friend might be able to help. In my case, I wasn’t in the system yet so my friend decided to put the phone in his name and I paid for everything.

I’m planning to return to Korea so getting a phone was a better option for me. Plus, after 6 months, if the phone wasn’t recharged, the account will automatically be closed and my friend won’t be bothered about me having a phone under his name so when I come back, I simply have to get it reactivated and it will still work like a charm!

  • The cost…

The phone is a second handed Samsun Galaxy S2 that has been refurbished. The cost of it was 200 000₩. The sim card and activation was 10 000₩. I added 20 000₩ in funds in my account so I wouldn’t need to charge any time soon. For a total of 230 000₩, I got a phone that works very well and looks like it hasn’t been used. Also, according to the SK representative, it will also work in Canada with a Canadian sim card (I’m not sure if that’s true but we’ll see). If you are looking for a cheaper phone, you can always look at booth in the Seoul metro who sell used phones. SK only had smart phones but I was satisfied with getting the Galaxy S2.

This post has been pretty boring so here’s a picture of our meal using my new Korean cellphone =) hehe

2011-08-09 19.09.35

EDIT: go give my friend Doyoon a shout out on Twitter for helping me getting a phone :) He’s totally bummed that I didn’t write his name here hahaha

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