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7 Best Prepaid SIM Cards in South Korea: Buying Guide

South Korea received over 15.4 million tourists in 2018. Some of the most magnetizing destinations in this amazing country are the gorgeous demonstrations of environmental consciousness in the architecture of the city of Seoul, the ancient Bulguksa Temple, the jaw-dropping natural phenomenon of the Jindo Sea Parting, and so much more.

Although South Korea is a lovely travel destination, the roaming bill you get from roaming with your provider may not be as nice. In fact, roaming can be expensive. That is why many travelers buy a South Korean SIM card when exploring Korea. In this article, we will analyze all Korean SIM card options so that you can share your travels with friends and family at local rates.

Telecom Providers in South Korea

South Korea has three telecom providers: SK Telecom, KT (Olleh), and LG U+. The first two are accessible to visitors – LG U+’ policies prevent visitors from buying SIM cards. SK is the largest provider with more than 27 million subscribers, while KT has more than 16 million. There are various Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) in Korea, and a few of them will be discussed in this article.

South Korea was one of the first countries to launch a 5G network, but it is not accessible for prepaid SIM cardholders.

Coverage with both SK Telecom and KT is great on both their 3G and 4G networks. Korea used to have a CMDA 2G network. KT already shut theirs down, while the one of SK will be shut down soon. For most travelers, you do not have to worry about CDMA. Still, those with a phone from Sprint or Verizon (American providers) may experience weird service in Korea when roaming (or slow service, as you can roam on SK Telecom’s 2G network. 2G is too slow for most data transfers, even for WhatsApp or email).

What SIM card should you buy when visiting South Korea? If you want to buy a SIM card in South Korea, I would recommend going with KT and get a Korea SIM Blue or Korea SIM Red card. Go for SK Telecom's Korea SIM Orange if you would like affordable unlimited internet. For regular SIM cards, KT is cheaper than SK Telecom while providing good coverage throughout the country, making it a good choice for travelers.

In South Korea, you have to register your device by its IMEI number before you can use your newly bought SIM card. The registration process will be done upon purchase, and it can take up to an hour before the SIM will be activated. As the SIM card will be linked to your phone, you cannot use the card in another device (but you can still tether from it).

SIM cards from both KT and SK Telecom can be bought online, official stores, authorized dealers, and international airports.

In this article, I will mention priced in both USD (in just $) and Korean Won (KRW). When ordering the SIM online, you get a discount compared to buying it at the airport in town. The prices listed on the website are in $. Airport prices are listed in KRW.

Let’s see what Korea has to offer to us.

SK Telecom

SK Telecom Logo

As mentioned in the introduction, SK Telecom is the largest provider in South Korea. The Korea SIM Orange card is SK Telecom’s answer to the growing demand of visitors wanting a Korean SIM card. The card comes in various variants, ranging from 1 day to 30 days, and cannot be extended. All cards come with unlimited data at full 4G/LTE speed, which is at max. 150 Mbps, but it could be slower depending on where you are and how many people in the area are using data.

Unlike most providers that offer unlimited data, you can tether with the Korea SIM Orange card. It is also the only SIM card that does not require any registration (meaning that you can use it straight away instead of waiting for max. an hour).

Below are the Korea SIM Orange cards you can buy:

  • 1 day: $4.70 online, 6000 KRW at airports
  • 3 days: $12 online, 18 000 KRW at airports
  • 5 days: $20.60 online, 27 500 KRW at airports
  • 10 days: $27.40 online, 38 500 KRW at airports
  • 20 days: $48.70 online, 60 500 KRW at airports
  • 30 days: $51.60 online, 71 500 KRW at airports

Fancy on getting a regular SIM card? Then the PPS Smartphone plan may be something for you, which allows you to call and text as well. First, you pay 8800 KRW to activate your SIM card and have to load at least 5000 KRW to get started. Then you select a base plan, which is charged per day. Sending an SMS costs 22 KRW/text with each plan:

  • General: No daily charge – 4 KRW/second
  • Lite: 166 KRW – 3.3 KRW/second
  • Plus: 266 KRW – 2.9 KRW/second
  • Friends: 300 KRW – 2.2 KRW/second for 3 designated lines and 4.4 KRW/second for other lines
  • Regular: 350 KRW – 2.7 KRW/second
  • Premium: 500 KRW – 2.3 KRW/second

Finally, you add data to your plan, which are all valid for a year (unless your card expires before that):

  • 2000 KRW for 100 MB
  • 10 000 KRW for 500 MB
  • 15 000 KRW for 1 GB
  • 19 000 KRW for 2 GB
  • 33 000 KRW for 5 GB

KT Olleh

KT Olleh Logo

KT Olleh, just KT from now on, is the other telecom provider in South Korea. KT sells two tourist SIM cards called Korea SIM Blue and Korea SIM Red. Regular SIM cards are difficult to get for visitors, as they are marketed to long-term visitors and residents, so I will only cover the tourist SIM cards.

What is the difference between the Korea SIM Blue and the Korea SIM Red? Korea SIM Blue comes with “unlimited” high-speed (4G/LTE – first 10 GB) data starting from 5 days to 30 days and can be used to call and text as well. It allows you to use the KT WIFI network too. Korea SIM Red comes with either 1 GB or 2 GB of high-speed data (4G/LTE) or voice and text allowance for 30 days.

I put unlimited in quotation marks for the Korean Blue SIM because after using 10 GB, your speed gets throttled to 400 kbps, which makes it not really unlimited data. Then again, I can see people use their phone as a hotspot for 15 laptops, which makes it understandable why there is a Fair-Use Policy.

Anyway, besides data, you get 100 minutes and 100 SMS. Receiving calls, even overseas calls, and SMS is free.

It is recommended to buy the SIM card online and pick it up at the KT desk at Incheon International Airport (terminal 1 & 2) because you will pay a premium if you buy the cards in convenience stores. Moreover, you do not get that much choice when buying your SIM cards in the store (only the 7 days and 15 days version). If you want, you can use the free delivery service where KT will ship you SIM to your ho(s)tel, Airbnb, or any local address.

When you order your SIM online before arrival, the SIM will have been registered, meaning that you can use it instantly upon arrival. The following Korean SIM Blue options are available:

  • 5 days: $22.90
  • 7 days: $27.90 (or 34900 KRW in convenience stores)
  • 10 days: $31.90
  • 15 days: $40.30 (or 49900 KRW in convenience stores)
  • 30 days: 58.90

The Korea SIM Red cards are all valid for 30 days, which will get you 1 GB for $26.90 or 2 GB for $38.90 at 4G/LTE speeds. The SIM card cannot be extended, but you can recharge it if you need more data (at 500 MB increments up to 5 GB).

NeoKOSIM & Link Korea

NeoKOSIM Logo

NeoKOSIM has partnered up with KT to offer SIM cards with unlimited data (at max. 5 Mbps) for visitors. Data-only SIM cards can be paid for online and pick up at major Korean airports. The same counts for the voice and data SIM cards, but they are for rental, meaning they have to be given back before leaving South Korea (Incheon Airport only – that is why you are required to pay a 100000 KRW deposit).

The following data passes are available:

  • 5 days for 27500 KRW
  • 10 days for 28500 KRW
  • 30 days for 71500 KRW

Link Korea works on the same principle as NeoKOSIM, except for the fact that you have to book your card at least 2 days before going to Korea. They will contact you by main to get your personal information. After that, you will get pick-up instructions (for Incheon Airport only). You pay 100000 KRW in deposit or $100 if preferred. You can call and text as much as you want, and your usage will be calculated when giving the card back. It will be subtracted from your deposit before you get your deposit back. If you go for the data-only SIM, you can keep the card (no need to return it).

FreeT

FreeT Logo

FreeT is a subsidiary of KT using the KT network. You can order your card online with international delivery and registration. The card comes with 50 minutes and 2 GB for $35 valid for 90, which can be extended for another 90 days by topping it up.

The following data packages are available:

  • 500 MB for $8.80
  • 1 GB for $14.30
  • 2 Gb for $19.80

EG SIM, SIMCARD-KOREA, Play WiFI, and The Arrival Store

EG SIM Logo
SIMCARD KOREA Logo
Play WIFI Logo

You can buy or rent SIM cards from any of these companies. EG SIM is an MVNO using the KT network but is more expensive than using a KT SIM card, which is why I did not cover them in-depth in this article.

Play WiFi rents SIM cards for 35000 KRW, which gets you 1 GB and 20 minutes. Other companies give you much better value for the same or less.

The Arrival store rents SIM cards and phones for short-term and long-term purposes. Visitors like us can get a SIM card for $15 and get unlimited calling, texting, and data for $5 a day. I believe other providers have better value.

SIMCARD-KOREA has expensive packages, in my opinion. The cheapest SIM costs 10 Euro (not USD) and comes with 1000 KRW in voice credit. If you want data, you have to pay 8800 KRW for 500 MB, 14300 KRW for 1 GB, and 19800 KRW for 2 GB.

If you go for their more expensive SIM cards, like the 20 Euro or 30 Euro ones, you get 1000 KRW in voice credit and 500 MB or 11000 KRW in voice credit and 1 GB, respectively.

Their most expensive SIM, for 65 EUR, gets you 5000 KRW in international voice credit, and unlimited minutes and data. The Korean SIM Orange, with unlimited data, would be much cheaper.

Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in South Korea

Being redone.

The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in South Korea

Getting a Korea SIM (Red, Blue, or Orange) from KT or SK Telecom would do you well when considering a Korean SIM card.

Local Prepaid SIM Card in Other Asian Countries

Visiting other countries in Asia? Check out my SIM card buying guides for individual Asian countries:

Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.

Next Steps to Enhance Your Travel Experiences

Looking for the next steps to enhance your phone travel experiences? Here is what to do:

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