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Unlocking Korea-Bought Cell Phones

Unlocking Korea-Bought Cel...

Korean cell phones can be used abroad. You have two choices - you can stay with your Korean carrier and pay roaming charges or you can arrange to have your phone unlocked...if it is locked.

If you buy a used cell phone in Korea, you may have to go through the process of having the phone unlocked. New cell phones purchased in 2012 (after November 2011) are supposed to be unlocked  - meaning you can use the phone outside Korea. For example, if your Korea-purchased smart or cell phone is unlocked, you can insert a Canadian microSIM card (if you’re in Canada) and use your phone as though you had purchased it in Canada.

However, there could be a problem using some of the older models abroad. Also, it doesn’t work both ways, meaning you cannot use most foreign purchased cell/smart phones in Korea, which uses only CDMA technology (Code Division Multiple Access). At present, Korea does not sell/provide SIM cards for foreign units.

Having your phone unlocked:
1. If you have a phone that is carrier-locked, Korean law now states that the carrier must unlock the device at the customer’s request. Your carrier may request that you fax or email them your return airline ticket. If you still have time left on your contract, you may have to buy out the remainder before they will unlock your phone. However, if your contract with the carrier has expired, you do not have to show a return ticket to have them unlock your phone. (Note:Some expats have also succeeded in having their phone unlocked without having to buy out the contract if they have a return ticket showing they are coming back to Korea.)
2. To have your iPhone unlocked digitally, you will have to provide your carrier with the IMEI number, which is located on your iPhone in 'Settings, General, About.').
3. After you have contacted your carrier’s customer center and requested that your phone be unlocked, you should receive a message on your phone telling you that your phone has been unlocked.
4. You will have to plug in to iTunes a few days later, where you will see that you have updated carrier settings to apply. Do that and your phone is permanently unlocked. It’s possible that you may have to reset your phone (but not always). The carriers don't have the ability to re-lock it; once it's done, it's done.

K4E Editor's Note: Korea4Expats.com wants to provide the most accurate and complete information possible so if you noticed any errors or omissions on this page, please let us know at info@korea4expats.com

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Last Updated on 2020-09-01

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