Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cell Phones

I've been spoiled by a full week of gorgeous (albeit cold) weather... and now it's drizzling... yet over 70% of the girls on campus continue to wear heels to class. I saw one person wear a sweatsuit today, though... an extremely rare sight!

How to buy a cell phone in Korea
Cell phones in Korea are a big deal and an absolute necessity. Anyone who is anyone has a cell phone. In 2002, over 85% of unemployed had a cell phone! I don't think one could even survive in this city without one. You see kids as old as 10 walking around, cell phone in hand...... every third person on the subway is either texting or watching live TV on their phones (it was quite a funny sight - I wished I had taken a picture of it). Cell phones in Korea (Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan, too) are generally more advanced in design and function than in North America but don't think about bringing one home. Korean cell phones work on a different mobile network (CDMA) than those in North America (GSM) so I wasn't able to use my LG Shine candybar even though it's a Korean brand. On our 3rd day in Seoul, our KUBA buddies helped us get a cell phone. All of group 8 took the subway to the Digital Specialty Store in I'PARK mall (the biggest shopping complex in Korea).
This store is "wow". I was so overwhelmed at all the electronics! There were 8 or 9 floors and each floor specialized in a certain item: cameras, camcorders, mp3 players, dvd players, laptops, electronic dictionaries, or cell phones... hundreds of models all displayed in brightly lit (and frequently wiped) glass cases. Within each massive floor was at least 30 almost identical businesses selling pretty much the same things at different prices. (I couldn't help but think of all the electricity they were using up to keep this building open!)Our group visited about 4 or 5 random shops. We were all shopping for cheap, 2nd hand cell phones as most of us were only staying in Korea for a few months. The cheapest and most basic used cell phone was 30,000w (approx $25CDN). This one shop had a brand new cell phone the size of my thumb for 30,000w but I didn't get it as I knew it would easily get lost in my bag and would be hard to text with. I had my heart set on this sleek CYON slider cell phone that looked practically new for 80,000w but I couldn't let myself to pay that much. Finally, one of the buddies found this shop that had about 10 brand new KTF cell phones for 50,000w (about $42CDN) each!
Within 10 minutes, we cleaned them out and all happily went home with what is now known as the KUBA phone. Because we all bought from the same shop, we got to choose the last 4 digits of our number and they threw in free battery chargers (which you'd think would be included but no... even Sheena's 250,000w cell phone didn't come with one)!

It's pretty basic for a Korean phone but I think it's still pretty neat. It has mp3, camera (1.3mp), and video functions, alarm, games, and a simple built-in Korean-English dictionary.
Oh that reminds me - I need to find a cell phone charm to distinguish my cell from all other KUBA phones. I find cell charms to be so girly... yet I've noticed that so many guys have something long (and sometimes furry) hanging off their phone haha

So all our cell phones are on a prepaid plan with no hook up or monthly fees. We have to go to a KTF store (they're everywhere) to put money in it. Incoming calls and texts are free and it costs 2 cents CDN for each text you send so we all text each other. However, their number/txtpad is a bit different than North American ones as they take the Q and Z out and place it under the "1".

Cell phones are heavily celebrity-endorsed: TOP from Big Bang and Kim Tae Hee (an actress) for Cyon's Ice Cream phone.
For the older generation.. the sophisticated Wine cell.
While we were waiting for everyone to sign their contract, Yejin, my KUBA buddy showed Lavin and me the 2 faces of King Se-Jong (the guy who invented hangul, the Korean Alphabet) on the 10,000 bill.15 minutes before we left, Yejin and I checked out the electronic dictionaries. A lot of the Koreans recommend I buy one. Since I'm a beginner, I didn't need a fancy one so I ended up grabbing the Nurian for 90,000w (10,000 less than the neighbouring shop). I'm pretty impressed - it has an English dictionary and thesaurus, a slang dictionary, an English, Korean, and Japanese idiom dictionary, and it translates between Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and English. You can also put in your schedule and make it remind you of dates among many other things.
Mami bought the neatest multi-language dictionary for 300,000w. It's in colour, is touch screen, and you can go on the internet and watch TV on it in HD, too!

So yes -- these are my 2 newish "toys". I plan to go back to check out the other stores in the I'PARK complex as well as buy a laptop =)


  1. every blog makes me more and more jealous :P
    that little dictionary thing sounds pretty good! hahahahha reminds me of that ancient brick we found in your drawer =P
    but you also have a translator in your phone..how handy!
    hmm wat if you DIDNT put anything on your phone.. THEN that'd be different =P

  2. ooh ooh i wish i could see what the bill looks like NOT folded! how funny. i wonder if we can do that with ours..

  3. Natty!!! Reading your blogs make my day and make me want to fly to visit you!

  4. Electronic dictionaries are like the biggest thing....everyone here has one it's insane. We definitely don't know what it's all about but now you do =D

  5. Just a correction... Korean phones are GSM. not CDMA which is a canada invented system. i think you got it reversed when you mentioned it. Korea is 3-4 G GSM.

    incredible download speeds there. watching live TV on the subway was a trip.