Switching to a Korean phone network was was easy, or so I thought. I checked with Verizon when buying the phone and before I left for Korea, my globally activated Samsung Galaxy Nexus would work here. I was told all I needed was a new SIM card and I could join another network. Just to be sure they didn’t try and sell me anything extra I asked my Korean co-teacher, Mary, to come along. She speaks excellent English and obviously is fluent in Korean.
We walked down the street to the local SK store. There are literally phone stores on every block if not every corner so it was just a matter of finding a convenient one. Walking in it was evident that English wouldn’t get me very far here. Mary did all the talking; I told her about my old phone and she understood that I hoped to use it but if they couldn’t get it to work I would buy a new one. A quick Korean exchange and she told me to hand over the phone, within seconds he confirmed that it should work.
Some Korean was left untranslated as they talked back and forth; Mary knew what I wanted so I sat patiently waiting. A few moments later he asked what phone number I would like. I could pick the last 4 digits and opted to keep the same final 4 as I had in the states. He pulled up about a dozen options for the first 4 numbers and I picked out an easy to remember 7150. With that he pulled out a new SIM card and was powering up my phone.
I was given a tablet and must have signed a half dozen times as we sat waiting or him to finish. He was taking forever. After another Korean exchange Mary asked if I could wait until tomorrow. I said that I was fine leaving my phone with them and we parted ways. We could be able to pick up my activated phone after work the next day.
Work came and went; it happened to be a crazy day at school with our “favorite” student providing hours of “entertainment.” But, as it always does, the day came to an end and Mary and I went back to the SK store once more. We arrived and found the same sales rep. He sat us down and with a quick X gesture and a few words he explained that it didn’t work.
Unfortunately I’m not sure if it didn’t work because they were unable to figure out my English phone, I was lied to by Verizon or they just wanted to make an easy sale. Either way I found myself in need of a new phone so he brought out my options. I don’t mind spending a little money on a phone; I find its worth the price since I’ll be using it literally everyday and sometimes for hours at a time.
In Korea you pay for your phone in monthly installments with your regular plan. I like that better than in America where they make you shell out hundreds of dollars right when you buy it. The first phone he showed me was a white LG. It looked nicer than my old phone and was the right price, about 2000 won per month for 24 months, so 48,000 won or roughly $48. Just for fun I asked to see how much the Samsung Galaxy would be. He brought out the 2 next generations of my old phone, a S4 and an S3.5 (he said it wasn’t really a S3 but similar and more affordable). The 3 was about $10 a month and he said the same specs as the LG while the S4 was $45/month.
It was an easy choice, I went for the original LG that he showed me. My new phone came with an extra battery with an external battery charger, a wall charger and headphones. I’ve had it for less than 24 hours but have customized so that the home screen is nearly identical to my old phone. So far so good. I immediately signed up for KakaoTalk (a messaging app that is widely used here). Feel free to download the app and utilize some free texting at MikeS86.