All about prepaid SIM card, mobile solution for travelers to South Korea.
version 1.06 (2017. 12. 19)
Unlimited data SIM? 4G LTE Prepaid SIM? or WiFi Egg?
Almost near 5 years back, South Korea has been one of the inappropriate countries for tourists to buy prepaid SIM and use them in their phones while traveling. It was entirely due to 2G CDMA network (There’s no GSM network) and handset whitelist regime. At that time, all the mobile phones from abroad are required to registered before using it.
But now, it is the best country offering best quality of mobile network that any visitors must experience. They adopted 3G WCDMA and 4G LTE global mobile technology standard in sequence. The quality and coverage of the LTE and WCDMA network is second to none in the world. It covers almost 99.9% of the whole region in South Korea with 4G LTE network, therefore it is not just a subsidiary option but a major tour package itself that is highly recommended to try.
< KT LTE Coverage >
It is even leading the mobile 5G global standard now. Especially, KT(Korea Telecom), the Official Olympic Partner eagerly tries to advertise its technological superiority for the world with upcoming Pyongchang Winter Olympic Games 2018.
< Video clip about 5G and Pyongchang Winter Olympic Games 2018 of KT >
So, this article would like to share every checkpoint to enjoy mobile network in Korea such as what product to choose or what to be aware.
http://prepaid-data-sim-card.wikia.com/wiki/Korea_(South) shows the general introduction but it’s not only too massive to effectively search or compare information or products nor hard to notice but it also displays meaningless products from A to Z and it makes users harder to choose.
If there’s any missing points or anywhere needs modifications, it’ll be constantly updated in the future with continuous feedbacks so please feel free to comment your thoughts and opinions. I’ll focus on getting best products based on that.
Things to check
Most of the mobile devices made outside of Korea are available to use in Korea. As long as the device allows to plug in the USIM regardless of its USIM size or type, all smartphones, tablet PCs, routers or laptops are all available.
The reason its size or type doesn’t’ matter is because almost of them comes in 3-in-1 type (nano, micro and general) and you can pick the size your device allows. (Most of the devices produced recently are made with nano size.) But to make it more securely, let’s keep those 3 in mind.
The terminal has to be unlocked.
No need to explain but literally make sure if the device you are willing to use is restricted to specific telecom company or specific country. If so, you can not use the device with Korean local SIM. But don’t worry. Most of the countries allow to unlock immediately by calling the current telecom company or production companies and offer them IMEI numbers of yours.
Check the network techniques and frequencies.
It is not working if your phone is CDMA base or doesn’t allow SIM card to plug in. Only devices with LTE or WCDMA that allows SIM card in it are available. Also if the device supports Korean LTE frequencies, you can use LTE. If it doesn’t support LTE frequencies, it’ll be connected to 3G WCDMA.
Among those networks, KT SIM cards for tourists are dominantly being used because of its frequencies. SKT has inconveniences to register your device information when activating, so it is rarely sold outside of the airport. LG U+ is CDMA based and therefore it’s limited to work! So both SKT and LG U+ are focusing more on WiFi router even at the airport booth. KT’s LTE frequencies use international LTE coverage (Band 3, Band 8, Band 1) and it can be used with no additional terminal registration issue.
If you have used Korean prepaid SIM card in your device before!
In this case, the SIM in the past could be still connected to the device so it may not be able to use with new SIM in. If newly purchased SIM is not working, you may be requested to call your previous telecom company and ask for deactivation. For your information, if it’s stolen devices or listed on a international blacklist, it is restricted to use.
Where to buy
There are 3 ways to buy it. What you need to be aware is it is not absolutely impossible to purchase in town outside of the airport but pretty bothering.
Some convenience stores like 7-Eleven in major places in Seoul or Haewoondae in Busan but you have to get to the store and in some cased you may have language barrier. Best recommendable idea is buying from those 3 ways. It is not recommended to leave the airport without not getting the SIM card.
In fact, those 3 ways are the most dominant for visitors or foreigners coming to Korea which are purchase online prior to the arrival and pick up at the airport, or getting the SIM card from the airport telecom company service desk or airport convenience stores after arrival.
It is strongly suggested and cheapest way to purchase online, make a reservation and pick up at the airport after arrival.
The most reliable and commonly used online SIM shopping malls are Korea SIM card( https://krsim.net ) and roaming kt( https://roaming.kt.com ) now. Especially Koea SIM card is highly recommended because it’s on market directly from the telecom company and has KT’s every SIM solution (Premium 4G LTE SIM and unlimited data SIM) for tourists with cheapest price reward system. From the actual experiences their CS was also very pleasant. Roaming KT offers data unlimited plan and smartphone rental services in the airport but no premium 4G LTE is provided.
Other than KT, there are other data unlimited USIM sellers getting their products from overseas tour agencies such as funko, trazy, klook, or kkday. But even though you order there, you be received same product(kt unlimited data 5 days, 10 days and 30 days) with Korea SIM card. In addition, it’s not only provided from Korean telecom companies directly but also complicated to get in touch with CS when needed so not recommended.
Also you may see other online small distributor’s shopping mall such as linkkorea or neokoSIM, but some products of theirs are available only by visiting a specific offline store in town like Hongdae so not inconvenient enough as well. In case of EG SIM, it used to be widely used but currently it is extremely hard to get connected to CS center. It is easy to find people who cursing the company in Facebook of EG SIM. (It was also the starting point for me to start this posting). Still, I find so many blog articles that introduces EG SIM. I can clearly say it is outdated article and forget EG SIM.
Airport Convenience Stores
If you haven’t purchased the SIM card online in advance, getting one from the airport convenience store is another great way to get. There’s no differences from other countries where you can easily buy SIM cards from continence stores. It makes your trip easier and recommended to buy from airport convenience store whereas online purchase is needed to finalize reservation average 2~3 days ahead of the arrival.
Currently Premium 4G LTE SIM card is on market and I was told that unlimited data plan will come out shortly as I requested. The price is a little higher than online purchase though. (About 10%)
< Airport convenience stores where sells SIM >
# Incheon International Airport : 1F Arrival Floor CU 1,2,3
# Gimpo International Airport: 3F 7-Eleven
(You can also get from Domestic Terminal or Subway Station “Gimpo
# Gimhae International Airport : 1F Arrival Floor, 7-Eleven
# Jeju International Airport : 3F 7-Eleven
< The landscape of 3 CVS in Incheon Int’l Airport >
CU convenience store at the 1F arrival floor in Incheon International Airport is one of the most actively purchasable places.
Separate from purchase, you can activate the SIM card by yourself whenever you need. As written on the description, you can upload simple information to register and it’s ususally activated within around 15 minutes. In case of Inchon Airport, there’s red shirt wearing staff helping activation in front of the Gate 10 and CU convenience store where says SIM card on the board at the arrival floor so you can get help. (365 days 8AM-8PM)
Recently, Korea SIM Card at CU in Incheon International Airport was introduced in famous Korean TV program, ‘어서와 한국은 처음이지: France episode’ this week. Please check from 16 minutes. You can check how to purchase.
Airport Roaming Desk
Likewise, once you’re arrived at the airport and need the SIM card urgently, it is also one of the great idea to visit the telecom roaming desk. There are different roaming desks from different telecom companies (SKT, KT, LG U+) but KT is absolutely dominant for tourist SIM for foreigners as mentioned above. Again, SKT and LG U+ is specialized more on WiFi router rather than SIM card. In case of KT roaming desk in Incheon International Airport, it’s very busy with many crowds so you may need to wait more than an hour if need to. And there, it is a bit more expensive than online.
Basically KT roaming center sells unlimited data SIM card but if you want to use voice, you can pay for the deposit money and return the SIM after use, and pay extra charged is there’s any when you’re returning the SIM. Other than this they also have WiFi router rental and smartphone rental services.
What to buy
Here, I suggest the Best SIM in South Korea for foreign traveler. You have to consider your preference when you’re choosing what to buy.
First, the Best SIM I think is ‘4G LTE SIM from kt Mmobile’. With it, everyone can use his phone just like in his home country with world best high quality and wide coverage in Korea. It is not cheap price but fully worthy of it. It is clearly proud of its distinguished level from any other cheap SIMs. And you can never find any other plan that charge voice by second base ratio but this. With 1GB, you can talk 275 minutes to US. For call rate for other country, please refer to here.
Second, for unlimited data SIM, I chose ‘the unlimited data SIM from kt(Korea Telecom). It is the best-seller SIM in Korea now. You can meet it through so many channels. In online, Korea SIM Card, funko, trazy, klook, and kkday all treat it and even you can even buy it at the kt desk on arrival floor in every International Airport. But I recommend you to buy it at Korea SIM Card. It declared Best Price Guarantee. And it is not one of distributors but also telecom company itself. So, You can trust customer services when in trouble.
Want to experience Korean top quality of Data and Voice Calls (International/Domestic)
CHOICE : 4G LTE Prepaid SIM (KT Mmobile)
product package : 1GB, 2GB
Max. 120Mbps 4G LTE everywhere in Korea with your own Smartphone
No deposit / Offers 010 number (free incoming calls)
Unlimited free for receiving calls and messages.
All the mobile services including voice call, message and internet.
Additional top-up available anytime Online or Offline(CVS)
Available exclusively for foreigners, available for 30 days (no more extension, due to Korean government’s political restrictions)
Available from Korea SIM Card ( https://krsim.net ) and offline stores such as CU, 7-Eleven.
4G LTE 1GB – US$ 26.9 (Online, discounted), KRW 34,900 (Offline CVS)
4G LTE 2GB – US$ 38.9 (Online, discounted), KRW 49,900 (Offline CVS)
Unlimited data plan with rare voice calls?
CHOICE : Unlimited data SIM (KT)
Product package : 5 days, 10 days, 30 days
Unlimited data available during the activated period
Available voice talk using mobile messenger app and tethering
Available both for foreigners and Koreans
Compatible with all the SIM type (nano, micro and general)
Its transmission speed 5Mbps is relatively slower than 4G LTE but as long as it’s not massive file downloading, it doesn’t bother to use.
Available from Korea SIM Card ( https://krsim.net ) and offline such as KT roaming desks located in airports.
Unlimited Data 5 days : US$ 22 (Online, discounted), KRW 27,500 (Offline in Airport)
Unlimited Data 10 days : US$ 31 (Online, discounted), KRW 38,500 (Offline in Airport)
Unlimited Data 30 days : US$ 57 (Online, discounted), KRW 71,500 (Offline in Airport)
Cheapest internet with little convenience as long as it’s connected to network
CHOICE : KT WiFi Router(Egg)
Anytime, Anywhere, Turn on my own Wi-Fi Use unlimited data without worry
Use your own tablet or phone access to the internet with 4G/LTE Unlimited data by connecting with WiFi Router
Available both for foreigners and Koreans
Have to make a security deposit, and return the device to have the deposit back.
There will be a charge for a damaged or lost device.
Available from KT roaming desk online ( http://roaming.kt.com ) and offline airport KT roaming desk.
KRW 4,400 / day (Online, discounted), KRW 5,500 / day (Offline in airport)
Deposit KRW 200,000