How to buy cheap handphone in Korea

I have my IPhone but it’s useless here so now it’s totally behaving like an ITouch. Arghh..but anyway my IPhone is still usable when there’s FREE Wifi signal around. I had been to KT and SK headquarter but they asked me to check with Celcom since my handphone is under contract and it might be locked.

I did check out the handphone around Sinchon or Sogang University but I need to fork out some money even for used handphone, at least 40,000 won. I know I’m stingy so I won’t be doing that since I’m not working and have no stable cash flow at the moment.

So my only option is to buy a used handphone. I visited the same shop back in 2009 and it is still there!! Yeay.. The used phone is so many and some are even FREE. My choice? Definitely the free phone.^^

I chose LG plan instead of KT or SK. Just to be different..haha. Min Young uses KT and her mother uses SK.

Used phone – 0 won
Prepaid – 10,000 won (available for 30 days)
Phone cable  – 2,000 won.
Total – 12,000 won.

But…used phone does come with its downside.

  • No antenna – if you want to watch tv
  • No spare battery
  • Battery depletes very fast – I have to recharge every night
  • Not a ‘smart’ phone obviously, just a simple text and call phone. 
Take subway to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station, 
Exit 5, Line 5 or 4. From Exit 5,  you will see Woori Bank right after 
the exit and turn right. Then walk straight, cross the road  and walk straight
until you see this hand phone shop. 

By the way, I find it interesting that Whatsapp is available when I checked into FREE Olleh or T-Wifi signal while riding the subway. KakaoTalk or Viber is not working though. Whatsapp used to be free for download from Appstore but now is chargeable.

How to recharge prepaid phone in Korea?
It depends on the service either KT, SK or LG. Like mine, I could recharge the prepaid at any shop bearing the LG U+  or LG Uplus sign.

37 thoughts on “How to buy cheap handphone in Korea

  1. Hi,
    Was looking for information on Korea prepaid phone and found your blog.just curious, you have to speak Korean with them? Any survival phrase to teach over here?Can any tourist just buy it then?


  2. ala… da blk br tau… klu x nk cari fon free dah, ahahah….

    kak zarina… saya x perasan la… ada x akak post cerita psl guesthse or tpt tggl yg bole stay sebln or lebih, for a cheap price… sbl ni, saya stay kt namsan guesthouse, tiffany hotel n hanok… tp 10 hari je kt sana.. pn dah mahal… so, klu sebln… caner ek? ada x yg kira ffordable utk husband n wife?

    ngee… tq kak… ^^

  3. Zarina, may I know which iPhone you use? You can actually Jailbreak your iPhone and use Gevey SIM (check at eBay – cost around RM60) together with your simcard to unlock your iPhone. But for now it works if you are running on iOS lower than iOS 5. I tried this as mine was from US, and it works well!

  4. Zarina,

    Boleh tak kalau kami beli simkad prepaid guna kat handphone yg bawa dr Malaysia? ataupn nak kena configure apa2? And kalau nak beli handphone kat sana dan bawa balik ke Malaysia, boleh ke?..

  5. Anonymous –
    This shop can speak English.
    Just show your passport.

    The handphone in Korea uses CDMA technology not GSM like in Malaysia, so there's no simcard.

    handphone dari Korea tak boleh guna di Malaysia.

  6. Hi. I am traveling to Korea for 11 nights next month and would want to just buy a phone I can use (renting is much expensive since I'll be traveling frequently to & fro Seoul this year, at least 3x this year alone) and I have few questions.

    – do I just say "i want to buy a used handphone?" to the sales guy? I might be going there alone and I can only read Hangul, can barely speak a sentence and I understand nothing 🙁
    – can I use the phone again after like 3-5 months? the prepaid credit might expire, I expected, but can I just reload to reactivate it?
    – how is the charging per call? do I get charged for incoming calls too? how about rate for sending SMS? particularly international SMS?
    – can I pass the phone on to friends who will be going to Seoul as well and can they reload it with the prepaid card as well? Or is the usage restricted to me (and my passport)?

    Sorry if I asked to much question. I have been reading your blog all day and is currently hyped up for my 2nd (and longer) visit in Seoul by February 🙂


  7. Jelmin,
    once you enter the shop, look at your right, you won't miss the stacks of used phones tagged with prices from 0won up to 100,000won.

    Choose your phone, give them your passport and pay 10,000 won for the prepaid.

    The phone is valid maximum 90 days. After that is not usable. Whatever credits inside is forfeited.

    Charging per call or text differs between SK,KT and LT but not much difference, hence I don't mind too much and I'm not sure how much is the actual rate too.

    You are not charged for incoming call.

    You can pass the phone to some one else if it's still in the 90 days period.

  8. kak zarina, phone ni kalau tak beli pun takpe kan. sbb kite still boleh use line kite kat sane kan? since i travel less than a week. just nak tanye. rate guna line korea ni lagi murah or using malaysian line lg murah nak contact family kt malaysia? twitter/fb takde la kan? thanks ^^

  9. ILY,
    I'm afraid you can't use your Malaysian phone to have Korean line cause you need to to have ARC(Alien registration card.

    You can just rent a phone at the airport for a cheap price.

    of course it's cheaper to use Korean line that roaming from Malaysia.

  10. hi zarina~

    I'm currently staying in Jecheon, doing my internship at Semyung university and I'm only gonna be here until end of June.

    I bought an LG phone using mobing service which cost me 20k Won in total. I was wondering since the phone is useless in Msia, can I sell them back to any shop? or I have to sell them back to the shop where I bought it from?

  11. A'salam Fairuza,

    I've never sold back my phone though cause it practically has no value. My previous one was a used phone and I bought it for 25,000 won.

    You may try your luck with the shop though but I doubt it.

  12. Hi Zarina,
    I would like to know how much LG charges for their calls and smses? Coz i wanna see how long can the 10,000won credit last. Thanks!

  13. Hi Christine,
    Rate for local calls or international calls?

    For myself, 10,000 won is enough for a all depends on your usage.

    I almost don't use the phone,just for emergency situation.

    Most of the time, I grabbed the wifi with my Malaysian Iphone and it's enough.

  14. kak, nak tanye. kalau nak beli hp tu tak payah tunjuk alien ek, paspport will do? kalau mcm saya ni nak p sane dlm 8 ari, kalau tgk rent hp kena dlm 11200, tu bru rent hp je,blum lg masuk call rate, agak2 mane lg berbaloi ek? beli or rent?

  15. c.naluv,

    just tunjuk passport

    kalau rent hp tu kena tgk..dia ada data plan for wifi/3g ke?

    it's better to rent if you use data plan

    if u just want to stick to call and simple text messaging, buying prepaid phone is better

  16. Hi zarina.. Very nice blog 🙂
    Btw, i have questions for you.. Is it cheaper to buy samsung mobile phones in korea?
    And can we use the phones in Malaysia?
    Thanks for your time! 🙂

  17. hi,

    may i know how to check the balance on your prepaid card?
    since LG prepaid is the cheapest, is it working fine for you? and lastly may i also know if you know the price for sk and kt prepaid? thank you so much

  18. Hi!

    I will be in Seoul from August to June of this year so I really need a phone. No traveling outside the country or anything like that. I just want something simple, no internet or tv necessary. What's the cheapest option, in your opinion?

    Thanks so much!


  19. Hi,

    I just wanna ask that whether we have to sign any contract(such as year of contract) to get the free handphone? and what if the handphone broke down or something happen to the handphone, do i have to pay for the handphone? and for the phone cable, we have to pay for once only right?



  20. Jasmine,
    -no contract, just show your passport when buying
    -the phone is second hand, no need to return once you buy
    -once broken, just buy another one, no warranty, i got mine 0won which means FREE!
    -phone cable means charger right? not USB cable is 2,000won.

  21. Jennifer lopez,

    I just wrote the whole post..which is 0 won for the phone + 10,000 won for local call + 15,000 won for international call which can last for 3 hours worth

  22. Linda,

    for any prepaid SK,KT or LG , there is instruction to check the balance at the back of prepaid card

    for mine is LG

    so I call *81 , wait for a while and then press 2 for English and it will tell you the balance..

    I don't know KT or SK..sorry

  23. If you go to Yongsan Station there's a store called Wireless n Beyond.
    They offer all sorts of phone services… like you can buy a phone from them under a contract or take your phone and put it under a contract. and they offer like free phones for pre-paid services… they have pretty much everything and I'd personally say it's cheaper than Digi or Maxis from Malaysia…

  24. Hi zarina..
    I am also studying in Korea now and find ur blog very useful.
    I got a free handphone and just have to pay for the charger for 5000won.
    Thank you so much.

  25. Where can we find free wifi in Seoul? Most cafes or train stations? Do we need to ask the staff for p/w? I noticed you mentioned that kakao talk or viber don't work. But whatsapp should work right?


  26. Hi hi, I was browsing the web about Korea and I was link to this blog. Love reading this blog, has lots of information. I will be going to Korea from 30th Jan 2013 to 8 Feb 2013, it's my first time to Korea and I will be travelling alone, by reading your blog, it gave me lots of information, thank you so much!

    I have a question regarding the mobile phone. You said we can rent the phone there so does this mean that my phone will not be able to roam? And if we can't use our phone in Korea, can I use my iphone or Samsung S3 to surf the net using the wifi??

    Hope you can help me in this, I am so lost>_< Because keeping in touch with my family members while I am overseas is very important….

    Do you have facebook acct? Can I add you as my friend?^_^


  27. Hi, wondering where is Dongdaemun Culture and history stop? Can only see Dongdaemun and Dongdaemun Stadium stops on the subway map.

    Also, are incoming calls free of charge on this phone? Thanks in advance for your help!

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