Be sure to secure your iPhone or Android Smartphone whenever you travel. Precautions will help prevent disaster.
The iPhone or any Android Smartphone is an essential tool when traveling to Korea for tourists of any country. Google maps, travel guides, language translation, and many other apps are extremely useful. We used them all the time. Using our American AT&T iPhone in Korea was tricky. Most Verizon iPhones from the USA do not work internationally, since they use CDMA technology. Verizon does carry several “World Phones” which work with SIM Cards. We have done the research on our last trip and are sharing the findings with you.
We also have articles on using prepaid SIM cards in other countries:
- Using iPhones in Hong Kong
- Using iPhones in China
- Using iPhones in France
- Using iPhones in the UK
- Using iPhones in Japan
Here are some tips on using your iPhone in Korea
You can only use foreign SIM cards in an unlocked iPhone or Android Smartphone. A locked smartphone only works on the original cell phone carrier. Most cell phone carriers in the US, including AT&T, allow you to unlock Smartphones after your 2 year contract has been fulfilled. T-Mobile requires 18 months of payments before they will unlock a cell phone under contract. You can alternately purchase an unlocked Smartphone from Amazon, eBay, etc.
If you prefer to unlock your iPhone, you can try jailbreaking it. Jailbreaking and unlocking iPhones are not easy tasks. One slip and you may have bricked your expensive smartphone. You can buy a pre-jailbroken/unlocked used iPhone from eBay or Craigslist. iPhone 4’s typically cost around $150.
This article also applies to using prepaid SIM Cards in the iPhone 5s, 5c, 5, 4s, 4, 3gs, and iPad with 3G or LTE. Android Smartphones utilizing GSM technology are also supported.
Different Smartphones use different sized SIM cards. Most foreign cell phone carriers sell smaller micro-SIM (iPhone 4, 4S, iPad) and nano-SIM (iPhone 5, 5s, 5c, iPad mini) for use in a variety of Smartphones. You should remove the SIM card from your phone before you attempt to purchase a prepaid SIM card in another country.
EG SIM card package
Main cellphone carriers in Korea
LG, KT Telecom (Olleh, Evergreen Mobile), SK Telecom. Some of these carriers support GSM900/1800/2100 network frequencies.
Suggested Wireless Carrier
We chose to go with EG Prepaid Sim Card (Evergreen Mobile) due to its lower cost and GSM Compatibility. As of 2013, no provider in Korea sold prepaid LTE SIM Cards.
Where to Buy
Several GS25 convenience stores are located in the public area of the arrival hall within the Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN), 1st floor. One is in the middle of the hall, while another is all the way on the end.
Prepaid SIM card plan
When we purchased the EG Prepaid SIM Card from GS25, they took a picture of our passport using the kiosk that sells the SIM Card.
- SIM Card with 500MB Data costs 20,000 won
- Standard or Micro SIM Card 5,500 won. Nano SIM Card 9,900 won
- 55 won per MB of Data, 500MB 11,000 won, 1GB 16,500 won
- Local Voice calls cost 4 won /sec
- Text messages cost 20 won, MMS costs 240 won
- US Calls cost 150 won / min
- The SIM Card lasts 60 days and can be added onto (topped up) and extended in lengths in 30 day increments for 10,000 won
Prepaid SIM card Activation
This is how we set up our iPhone on this prepaid SIM Card.
- Turn off your smartphone
- Insert the Prepaid SIM Card
- Turn on your smartphone
- Carrier settings were configured automatically
Prepaid SIM card Top Up
Here is how you can add money to your account
- Visit a convenience store and purchase a top up
- You will receive a receipt with a PIN number
- Call 080-511-3467
- Select Language (1 Korean, 2 English, 3 Chinese)
- Enter PIN number
- You should receive a text message or SMS confirmation with new balance
These instructions should work for other smartphones including Android smartphones that support American GSM networks from AT&T and T-Mobile.