Seoul,  Seoulful Encounters 2017,  South Korea,  Travel

Seoulful Encounters [Busan/Seoul Trip 2017] – WILL MY PHONE WORK IN KOREA?

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I remember that way back in 2012, I could not get my phone to work in Seoul. Similarly in 2014, I could not activate my roaming nor get a SIM card to work but WiFi worked just fine. For this trip, I am faced with the dilemma of choosing between buying a SIM card with unlimited data or renting a WiFi egg. I have to be reachable at all times by my husband and preschooler who will follow me in Seoul during my last 4 days there. To help me choose which one to get, I should first ascertain whether our phones will work in Korea. My husband is currently using an iPhone 6+ while I am using LG G5 and an old iPhone 4.


Actually, Apple, Samsung and LG phones have already reshaped the phone industry in Korea even before my first visit way back in 2012. Samsung and LG, specifically, have already come up with several smart phones that needed to be powered by 3G/4G technology. These big players had to catch up with each other which pretty much resulted into the massive sale and use of smartphones, and eventually, the use of foreign phones in South Korea. To this day though, there are still some limitations or requirements for foreign phones to work in South Korea.

The first requirement is that the phone must have a SIM card slot. Phones from the Philippines generally do not have problems with that. But think about the case of phones from Sprint in the United States. They do not use traditional SIM cards but an ICCID card. There are also some US and Canadian providers who run CDMA networks and they sell phones without SIM card slots.

The next requirement is that the phone must support WCDMA 2100 MHz frequencies. Most Korean networks run on 3G – 4G – LTE Technology.

I have come across a recommendation that the easiest way to check if the phone will work in Korea is by checking online via Will My Phone Work? From the dropdown menus, select your phone brand and model number as well as the country you’re going to then it will let you know if the phone will work.

Upon checking, it looks like my LG G5 will work on 4G LTE for all carriers in South Korea except for EG SIM.

The final thing that must be determined though is whether the phone is unlocked. SMART or Globe sells phones along with their plans which prevent such phones from recognizing other networks’ SIM card. The best way to check if the unit is unlocked is to confirm with your provider. There are many phone vendors, like in Greenhills, who will offer to unlock phones for a fee but just know that this will affect your phone’s warranty. Now, this is where I will encounter issues. My LG G5 may be compatible with South Korean SIMs but my phone, however, is locked. If I choose to buy a SIM card instead of renting out a WiFi egg, I must first have it unlocked.

Having determined that my phone will work in Korea, I can then proceed to consider whether I should buy a SIM card or just rent out a WiFi egg.

Join me in my next post. Annyeong 🙂

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