Getting a Cell Phone in Your Own Name

For a long time I believed what the employees at local little cell phone shops always claimed when I asked: that a foreigner cannot get a regular phone with a regular phone plan under his or her name in Korea. They always claimed that I had to have the phone under someone else’s name. So it went, and my phone was under my friend Seong Hwan’s name. Seong Hwan generously allowed me to get a phone with himself signed up as my guarantor. He also let another co-worker of mine do the same. It always struck me as odd that a guy with no job—which was true of him at the time—was signing on as guarantor for two guys working steady jobs at a University. I was right in thinking it somehow nonsensical.

Now, I appreciate Seong Hwan’s generosity, but it’s just ridiculous to have to have someone else guarantee you on your cell phone package. It means you can’t download new songs or games without his or her national ID number; if you pause your phone service while traveling (to save yourself a few thousand won) you discover that the phone account cannot be reactivated until you visit an office with the guarantor in person. And when you’re living in different cities, it’s just ridiculous to have to do so, but the phone companies, you see, have these policies, perhaps for good reasons—I do know someone who was ripped off by someone who had a phone out under their name and never paid the bill. Anyway, those are the policies, and that’s that.

Except they don’t actually apply to you if you do get the phone in your name. Which, in fact, yes you can do. It’s not totally easy, but it’s doable… I know because I did it today.

I made the trip to Iksan and met Seong Hwan. We actually met at the wrong shop, thanks to my cab driver, and when Seong Hwan asked about changing my phone over to my name, the guy in the little neighborhood shop told him the same bogus story—that foreigners cannot get a phone under their own names. Having just spoken with someone at SK that afternoon and having been told the opposite, I was ready to call the office and have the SK representative explain it to this twerp, but instead we just went on to the big branch office, a few blocks away.

From then on, it was easy. I filled out a few forms (of course, with Seong Hwan’s help), plunked down a few hundred thousand won as a refundable deposit for the account, and that was it. Now, my phone is under my name.

If you’re looking for information on how to get a cell phone in Korea under your own name, have a look here. I recommend SK: it’s a good service and among the three, seems the easiest to get, even if it is a smidgen more expensive. After all, given how hard it is to get a Korean credit card under your own name, KT is probably out; likewise, the hassle of all those documents you need for a phone account with LG makes me think SK is the best choice. But hey, you check the link above, as well as your other options as described here, and make up your own mind.

I just wanted to say, as much of a pain in the ass as it seems, it can be done.

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