[Update:] Link to prepaid data plans fixed
[Original Post:] Readers will remember I went on a bit of a rant a couple of weeks ago about using prepaid phones in Korea, especially on KT, who, despite being thousands of kinds of awesome let me down a little bit in the ease of adding credit to my prepaid phone. (which I eventually managed to do at the KT Gwanhwamun Global store, despite it being a Sunday and it taking far longer than it really should have.)
It was with some glee that I checked my email this morning and found a message from Chris Kim, friend of the Blog, sometime guest on the Seoul Podcast and a member (THE member??) of the Expat marketing team at KT, who provides some much needed and very cool info on using your prepaid phone on KT in Korea.
In my original post I said
The KT call centre rep noted that there was no way to call an automated service and find my balance. Adding to the problem, and that I should call and talk to a real person if I wanted to know. A real person!
Actually, you can dial 1500 from your phone and get a bunch of prepaid-related stuff done via ARS (how much credit you have, add more credit with a debit/credit card, set up features, etc).
Or you can just dial #0 from your phone (that's # + 0 + Send/call). You will see your phone "dialing out", but instantly receive a text message telling you how much credit you have left on your account. (If the message comes to you in Korean, you can call 1500, hit the button for English, and get through to the main menu, and all the texts after that will be in English.)
So problem number one solved. Although as I think I noted, I do get a handy text message AFTER I make a call letting me know how much money is left in the phone. This makes things a lot easier though.
I also complained:
The guy on the phone was reasonably helpful - so Kudos to KT, but why can't I just walk into Family Mart et al and buy a voucher, call the automated service tap in a code and be done with it?
Funny you mention that, because you can walk into a CU (formerly Familymart), or some of the other convenience store chains and ask for a voucher for prepaid credit. They issue you a receipt with a PIN, and you add it to your account by "dialing": # + 1 + PIN + Send/call
See I thought that had been the case - I remember way way waaaaaay back in 2007 friends would get prepaid voucher thingies from the convenience store downstairs in our apartment building...
Of course, convincing the underpaid teenager behind the counter at FamilyMart of what exactly what you want might be a bit of an issue. I suggest you use realia (point to and wave your phone about), and use the words 선불 (Seon-bul meaning prepaid) 돈 (Don, or money) and 추가 (Chu-ga, or to add). That should do it.
Chris let slip some interesting information at the end of his email as well. (And I'm pretty sure he's cool with me sharing it here)
We had some suggestions very similar to the ones you noted in your blog, and decided earlier in the year we decided to start fixing the often looked down upon prepaid system.
It hadn't occurred to me that the prepaid system was "looked down upon", but that makes sense given the relative ease one can pick up a cheap contract (Even we foreigners can get a contract with ID), and then it also occurred to me that, in Korea having a prepaid mobile kind of does also make you look like either a gangster or an adulterer... :-P
It might also make you a bit of a social pariah - getting the latest handset is a social necessity in some circles (pot calling kettle here!) and really the only way to do that is to get subsidized handsets on contract. (Although in saying that, with the opening of the handset market earlier in the year, options like second hand handsets from Craigslist or at least new (unsubsidized) ones from the likes of expansys.co.kr, also make prepaid an attractive option.
Finally Chris signed off with some encouraging news:
We also added prepaid data packages to the standard prepaid plans (http://expatblog.kt.com/91), so prepaid customers can actually use data without blowing all their credit in an hour… heh.
That is encouraging!
Kudos to Chris for letting me know about some more options in terms of prepaid phones. Its a shame whenever a company can't give you the information you need when you need it, but now that I am in the know, I imagine my prepaid experience will be a lot easier.