Where would Christians be without the Bible? Or Muslims without the Koran? Where would iPhone users be without their iPhones? -- it has after all been referred to as the “Jesus phone.” So how exactly have foreigners coped in Korea for so long without this divine conduit?
Jason Moran is an English teacher from Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Moran left the United States with his iPhone in hand and high hopes for its continued use in Jeju. However, things didn’t quite work as planned.
“Before coming here I did want to use my iPhone as my primary phone in Korea,” he said. “This normally wouldn’t be a hard task, just jailbreak it and put in the new SIM from your new service provider. But after research I found out about Korea’s crazy laws -- that all phones used on Korean carriers must be purchased in Korea and they regulate this by monitoring the IMEI numbers for each phone, so it’s pretty much a no-go.”
Jason could use his phone here on the island but it would be significantly more expensive for him. The only legitimate way to use phones tied to a contract in another country is to use a roaming service. Until recently, it was impossible to even purchase a new iPhone in Korea because none of the local carriers would support the service. Now foreigners and Koreans alike can purchase an iPhone from KT, but it must be bought in Korea.
Korean carriers have to abide by specific laws that other foreign companies do not. Moran has been on the island for several months now and didn’t have the luxury of waiting for the release of the Korean iPhone. “It’s strange that a country like China would get the iPhone before Korea,” he said, “but even to be released there they were forced to make certain changes like removing the Wi-Fi feature.”
The Korean iPhone comes with Wi-Fi alive, unlike those released in China. In fact, if you set your iPhone to access the Internet only via Wi-Fi, you will incur no data bill from KT by using 3G for voice and Wi-Fi for Web surfing. However, it is recommended that owners of imported iPhones in Jeju contact SK Telecom to negotiate an iPhone data plan.
This specific change contributes to the difference in price that Koreans pay for their data package; to own an iPhone in Korea is cheaper than paying for the data packages abroad.
KT’s iPhone Data Plan
The cheapest data plans in the United States for the iPhone 3G start at $69.00 a month and include visual voicemail and unlimited domestic data -- including e-mail and Net. Text messaging is extra and available for $5 per month for 200 messages within the United States.
This month, however, Apple made an exclusive contract with KT for the Korean market and SK Telecom hinted that they would release a series of Google Android phones for the domestic market. Supposedly now if you have an iPhone already, you may use it by registering the handset to SK Telecom. SK Telecom confirmed recently that it would allow iPhones imported individually to Korea to be registered to their network.
Josh Hutchison is a foreign teacher from Toronto. He did not come to Korea with an iPhone but instead bought an American one from another foreigner after arriving, with the intention of using it as his primary phone with a Korean company. Hutchison said he learned of his mistake shortly after and will not buy the Korean version. “I’m not sure if when I go back to Canada, I will be able to use it there. And the one I have now will definitely work there.”
Jason and Josh are without Jesus phones for now and have adapted to the use of their less appealing Korean cellular devices, but both remain a little lost as to the perplexities of the Korean mobile phone legal laws.