Can I use a foreign bought mobile phone in Korea?

Question by APKINS: Can I use a foreign bought mobile phone in Korea?
I am planning to buy a Sony Ericsson Arc S in Malaysia and since I travel in and out of both countries frequently, I would need a phone that can be used in both countries. I’ve heard of people using iPhone is capable of doing that, switch the SIM card and the phone can be used with a local telco. Will it work on the Sony Ericcson? Im currently using two phones for each country and it is such a nuisance.

Best answer:

Answer by Libro Salamin
All you have to do is find the phone with Quad Band so you can use all over the world (except some parts in Europe)…

Add your own answer in the comments!


  1. Yes you can use the phone that you bought in Overseas with the SIM card from your old phone as long as the the phone is triband or quadband unlocked phone. If you buy your phone from Asia or Europe most of their phones are dualband 900/1800MHz because the bands in their country is 900MHz or 1800MHz or both. The band in US is 1900MHz and in some places Cingular has 850MHz. In order for your phone to work in US it has to have the 850/1900MHz band and it has to be unlocked. Also why would one buy a phone in Overseas when you can buy those latest unlocked phone here in US from Goo luck.

  2. Well I do not think you got correct answers here… I am an American who teaches English to Koreans in the Philippines…..
    All of my students who come from Korea must buy a new phone when they arrive here. Korean Phones do not even use SIM cards…. the only phone I have seen work in both places is the iPhone 4….. ( and I think that uses a service similar to Skype to connect) …..I am not sure on the technical side as to why (someone answered about frequency) I do not know if that is the reason but I know 99% of all phone will not work in Korea….which uses a completely different phone system.
    The problem is no so much with the phones as it is with the providers in Korea.
    I will ask my students again and if new info I will post it here for you.

  3. Now that Korea also uses GSM, WCDMA, LTE, etc. one would think you could do this right? Wrong. The problem is that you cannot actually buy a sim card here, and sim cards are imprinted to work only in the one phone they provide you with. You cannot even “unlock” a phone to work this way (because it is due to the sim, not the phone.) This is why the only option for foreign visitors is to either rent a phone at the airport or pay the huge fees to use their foreign phone internationally here. You cannot even get a cellphone plan in Korea without a proper residence visa, and even with that, they are quite limited and sometimes expensive–mostly due to government restrictions. Perhaps you can get the cellphone company to program your foreign bought phone to work with their sim, but they will likely charge you a lot to do this and it may actually be illegal. It would be best to ask at a shop (bring someone who speaks Korean if you don’t.) Unfortunately, even for someone fluent in Korean, Korean cell shop salesmen (even the managers) tend to be pretty inaccurate and loose with their facts however, and either won’t know or give you the wrong answer to anything too complex. It’s probably not worth the trouble. Korea is a highly protectionist country and doesn’t like people to bring in their own outside products.

    EDIT: You CAN however, buy a GSM/WCDMA/LTE phone in Korea that will accept a foreign SIM card when you travel to another country however (I own one.) They don’t mind that, as long as the phone was bought in Korea.

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