What You Need to Know About iPhones in South Korea

Who doesn’t want an iPhone?  The iPhone is in demand by people around the globe, and the expat in South Korea is no exception. Though, there, the benefits of having an iPhone are often overshadowed by the risks and ‘unknowns’ that come with having one. Risks often worth taking when one is faced with the painful substitute: operating a flashy simple phone that makes more noises than ever thought possible.

iPhone South Korea: The Process

Foremost, no foreigner can be considered for an iPhone (or any phone) without these key items:

  1. Alien Residency Card (ARC)
  2. Korean bank account

Both of these items will take 3-6 weeks to set up. Once these items are in place, there are two directions to go in: buy the iPhone upfront or sign up for a two year contract.

Two Year Contract vs. No Contract

The two year contract proves especially difficult for the expat who is still focused on making it through their first 6 months abroad, hardly prepared to imagine another 18 months on top of that. The alternative to this is to obtain an iPhone with no contract and buy the phone upfront. Although, that cost range is around $800, whereas, with the two year contract there is a considerable discount.

The blessing of this 24 month contract: once fulfilled, the cost of the phone itself will be practically unrecognizable, since it is discounted, divided by 24, and stealthy slipped into each month’s bill. Plus, the contract holder will own an unlocked iPhone that can be used internationally.

The curse: if terminated prior to 24 months, the contract must be ‘bought out’ and hundreds of dollars paid. The total of the buy-out cost is factored by the telecom provider who will consider:

  • percentage of the phone paid off
  • months left on contract
  • upfront cost of  iPhone (16G/32G).

For example: If an expat has a 2 year iPhone (16G) and terminates the contract after only 6 months, he would likely be left owing around $500-$600 to the provider.

The only way to avoid this curse is to transfer the remainder of the contract to another person. Again, that person must also have the essential items: ARC and Korean bank account. Even though that person gets a phone that has been partially paid off for free, it is often more cost-efficient than the other option of the “buy-out” zinger.

Something that has recently been started to help those looking to transfer their contract is a site called PhoneGoRound. This is specifically geared toward foreigners with a two year contract hoping to do a contract transfer with their Apple, Samsung, or other device.

Obtaining the iPhone

Once the risks have been weighed, then it is on to the contract signing! Both SK and KT telecom carry iPhones, and service foreigners. However, KT is a step above SK, as it is more foreign-friendly and even has an expat blog set up to aid foreign customers. However, both providers have an ‘English Line’ that can be dialed to ask technical questions:

  • SK Telecom: 080.252.5011
  • KT: 02.2190.1180

It is important to note that this contract is best to set up at a Global Store. This way, English speakers are able to explain the terms of the contract and field any questions the expat may have. Often times, it is impossible to set up a phone elsewhere, as communication cannot be established.

With this in mind, the easiest way to go through this process is with The Arrival Store. The cool thing about this online store, is that is has been created by foreigners who understand first-hand the difficulties that come with Korean-expatriate life. With the iPhone, they offer customers the ability to order this sought-after phone online for only $9.99, totally hassle-free.

iPhone South Korea: Can it be done?

The iPhone South Korea seeking expat should rest assured! If the iPhone is what is desired, then the iPhone is what will be had. It just takes a decent amount of time, determination, and traveling to the correct location; or, $9.99 to have The Arrival Store take care of that. Either route chosen, when it comes to living in and exploring South Korea, having an iPhone is a risk well worth taking.