If you live in Korea or are visiting Korea and you’re lucky enough to have a smartphone with you, there are several apps that can make your life much easier. Here are some must have apps that will improve your stay in Korea.
Note: All apps are free and can be found in the USA iTunes store or Android Market (links below).
Messaging Apps – KakaoTalk Messenger
If you live in Korea, you already know how important this app is to daily life. Everyone and everyone has this app in Korea, and it’s the go-to messaging service for any smartphone user in Korea. Why use up your monthly texting quota when this will do it for free as long as you have an internet connection? This will be especially useful for if you’re traveling to Korea and relying on wifi. If you don’t want to use your money on crazy expensive roaming charges, use this to get in contact with your pals over wifi. (Find Seoul’s 10,000 free outdoor wifi spots here.)
Tip1: You can check if someone read your message or not. A number next to your message means it has not been read; if that number disappears (nothing there), it means the message has been read.
Tip2: Group chat is also available.
Tip3: “Befriend” companies on Kakaotalk and get deals and coupons.
Free International Calling Apps – OTO/ACE
Calling that boy you met on your trip to Europe is making a huge dent in your phone bill. If you got a smartphone in Korea, this app will allow you to call international from Korea at domestic rates. It calls a domestic number but connects you to your mom in South Africa, your boyfriend in England, or your sister in Sweden, all for the same rate as if you were calling your buddy across the street. The quality of the calls are a bit muddy, connectivity is not 100%, and you’ll use your cellphone minutes, but you can’t beat trading your unused minutes for flirty international calls from Korea!
Tip1: Download both and use the other when you can’t connect on one of them.
Tip2: Only useful for those with a phone plan in Korea. If you’re bringing your phone from home and don’t have it connected to the carriers here in Korea, these apps won’t work as intended.
Transportation Apps – Seoul Bus/Jihachul
Your date tells you “Let’s meet at 군자역 (Gunja station).” Where the heck is that? Use these apps to find out! These two smartphone apps have it all for Korea’s public transportation users. Perfectly time when you’re going to leave your house by checking the subway schedule or seeing how many minutes away the next bus is. See the shortest route between any two subway stations, or check if a bus nearby stops by your officetel. Transportation in Korea can be overwhelming, even for those who’ve lived here for a very long time. So travel like the majority of Koreans, and use these public transportation apps.
Tip1: English version available for both apps, Jihachul and Seoul Bus, but bus stops are written in Korean only.
Food Apps – Wingspoon
You’ve meet your friend in an unfamiliar part of town, and after an initial “how’ve you been,” neither of you have any idea where to go eat! It’s always a tough decision, especially if you’re a foreigner in Korea. Instead of just going in blind to any restaurant and hoping they’ll have what you want, download this app and browse Naver’s database by city, area or even type of food for meals that’ll pique your interest. If you’re craving galbi in Gangnam, search! Or see what’s close by using the GPS feature. Best thing is the reviews that come with every restaurant, which will tell you what everyone else thinks about the restaurant.
Tip1: Only comes in Korean. But a rudimentary ability to read Korean (location names) should suffice. Pictures and starred reviews can make decisions for you (looks good, 4.5 stars, I’m in!).
Map Apps – Daum/Naver Maps
Google Korea does have a presence in Korea, but the majority of the Korean internet users go to Naver or Daum as their default search engines. So it only makes sense that their mapping applications are more established than the smartphone’s default Google maps. It’s good to have all three, Google Maps, Naver Maps and Daum Maps. Search Google Maps for that dalkgalbi restaurant in Hongdae and get a blank. Try the same search in Daum Maps, and you might just be able to fine it.
Tip1: Searches in Daum and Naver are more likely to hit if searched in Korean.
Tip2: A hit in Naver may not show up in Daum and vice versa – Try searching all three before calling your Korean friend.
Movie Apps – CGV/Megabox/Lotte
So you’re finally going on a date with that girl you’ve been wanting to ask out at the hagwon you work at. Impress her with your smooth-ticket-buying skillz (ok maybe not so impressive, but definitely smooth!). These three apps by the biggest theaters in Korea allow you to browse currently playing movies (Korean movies or non-Korean movies), nearby theaters, and reviews. You can reserve the ticket and the exact seats you want to sit in. These apps are only offered in Korean.
Got your own list of apps you can’t live without in Korea? Share them in the comments!