Cell Phones in South Korea for Military Service Members

Is your son or daughter deploying to South Korea? In this post I share some tips about cell phones in South Korea.

Your son or daughter’s phone may not work in South Korea. And even if it does, they will be charged crazy roaming fees for phone calls, data and text. Instead, put put their U.S. phone on temporary Military hold. Contact the cell phone provider to find out what they needin order to do so. Each mobile phone provider has their own policy.

Your service member should definitely get a phone in South Korea. Mobile phones are easy to get and most military posts have a mobile phone shop on post.

For example Camp Humphreys and USAG Yongsan has the mobile phone shop called Music IT located in the USO building (see comment below for a pic). I am sure other bases have it as well.

Mobile phones in south korea for US service members

The mobile phone contracts are either for 1 year or 2 years. Pay attention to the small print!

Another important point – your service member needs to communicate with co-workers, superiors, other services on post. Therefore a Korean phone number is must. They need to communicate in-country.

And, any mobile phone can work over WI-FI to connect to Internet, email and apps.

How to Communicate with your Service Member in South Korea

Once your service member has their Korean phone, you both need to download one of the apps that will allow you to text and/or talk for free. I am not suggesting you download all. Choose at least two in case one is not working properly when you are trying to connect.

  • KakaoTalk – text, video and call (used extensively in South Korea by everyone)
  • Skype – text, call, video chat
  • Facetime – video chat (Apple only)
  • Facebook messenger – text, call, video
  • MagicJack – call
  • Voxer – text, walkie-talkie
  • Viber – text, call

If you have a different method to communicate, we’d love to hear about it! Please add it to the comments below.

Other Information About Mobile Phones in South Korea

If you are considering getting a SIM card for an existing U.S. phone here is some important information:

For a phone to work in Korea, it needs to satisfy these requirements:

  1. Be unlocked – some companies sell phones with software that prevents them from recognizing another company’s SIM card
  2. Have a SIM card slot – certain US and Canadian providers, running CDMA networks, sell unique versions of certain phones that have no SIM card slot to prevent customers from taking their phones to other networks
  3. Support WCDMA 2100 MHz frequencies – this is most important, as this is the frequency band that most Korean networks run their 3G networks on; this capability is inherent to the phone
  4. [OPTIONAL] Most newer phones nowadays support LTE data, which operates on bands 3, 8, and 26 in Korea. If your phone doesn’t support one of these bands, however, it should still connect at 3G speeds using the WCDMA 2100 MHz frequency.

To suspend a phone for military deployment:

You are NOT getting out of the U.S. mobile phone contract you are simply temporarily suspending the service. Most providers will allow you to do this for a couple of years. For example, here is the tmobile policy about it:

Click for Tmobile policy

You can search Google for your cell provider policy about military phone holds and suspensions.

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