Blacklisted: The work around in South Korea

Blacklisted: a dirty, dirty phone.

A blacklisted phone has a bad IMEI number, this is basically the phone’s cereal number. Various reasons can cause a bad IMEI: stolen phones, unpaid phones, broken contracts are probably the main.

Note: when buying phones on eBay, check if the IMEI is clean on your own. Google it.

Well, my phone is blacklisted and will not work with a foreign SIM card because it is locked to the previous carrier.

Getting a new phone is not an option, a chunk of money has already been invested in my current phone, and I am not willing to shell out hundreds more to invest in a new one.

So, I can either can either continue with my phone as a wifi only device or attempt to get a local SIM card.

In order to get a SIM card in South Korea, I have to jump through a few hoops.

Hoop #1: Unlocking my phone from the carrier in the US.

There is a service online that can do it remotely for a pretty affordable $36 to an outrageous $170, but it’s illegal for both parties. It’s supposed to take a few minutes to several days and involves the use of a laptop.

Hoop #2: Finding an affordable month to month, no contract service provider.

Option A: Services for foreigners.
There are several large companies with widespread data coverage and wifi hotspots all over Korea, I’m looking at KT Olleh and SK Telecom. I prefer KT Olleh because they have many more wifi hotspots included free with 300mps+ plans, including many buses and subway stations. They have plans for foreigners, all you need is a passport or ARC (Alien Registration Card). Passport holders can buy minutes and load as needed, but those with the ARC have the option of post paid, month to month service. KT Olleh has special Global stores dedicated to these types of services with multilingual staff. I think plans start around $8-$10 for 300-500mbs.

Option B: Services for locals.
Luckily, I have the option through a friend who is putting the month to month service in his name, but using my bank card. We went to the Post Office that have partnerships with the phone service providers at better rates. It’s going to run about $6-$8 for 700mbs.

You can also find the service offered through one of the many second hand phone stores in Seoul.

Hoop #3: Having a phone that has used a Korean service in the past.

The attempt is to take a Korean friend’s SIM card out of their phone and insert it into mine. Then make a call locally to show record of activity on my phone in Korea. This request really baffled me. I began my search, uncomfortably asking for a SIM card.

After finding a SIM on a local contract, my phone was not registering the new SIM. So I thought we hit a dead end, and I would have to purchase a second phone, one that was cheap and basic.

After many hours spent with no leads, I decided on buying a second hand phone. In the shop we learned about other month to month plans similar to what the post office offered.

The clerk put his SIM card into my phone, and it recognized the carrier!

So instead of leaving the shop with an extra phone, I left with my own working immediately with a month to month service through KT olleh.

I pay roughly 17,000 won for 2GB and 40 minutes of calling time.

Now, here I am disconnected from Wi-Fi as I write this post on the commute to work.

If you have any questions or would like specific information, email me at

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