Whether you are visiting or relocating to South Korea, there are a few must-have apps you will need to download on your phone. As the country is an authentic technology hub, everything and everyone seems to be connected online.
From social media and online shopping to home delivery, and transportation. There are a few apps that can certainly make your life easier in Korea. The best part is that the big majority of these are available in English. And the ones that are not, have an easy enough interface that you can navigate even without speaking the language.
You can thank us later!
1 – KakaoTalk
KakaoTalk is by far the most used app in South Korea. It is essentially a free call and messaging service, much like Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger. It has over 150 million users worldwide and is available in 15 languages for mobile and desktop download.
KakaoTalk has all the features that other services of its sort do, such as voice and video calls, text and multimedia messaging, group chats, scheduling, and even games. But once you switch to a Korean phone number, you are invited to a whole new world of features.
Users in South Korea can shop on the app, order food, listen to music, and even handle their finances. There are also many affiliate apps under the same brand name, some of which we will get into in more detail below. A few useful others include KakaoBank, KakaoTV, KakaoBus, and KakaoMetro.
2 – KakaoMap
It includes navigation for all means of transport. Whether you are walking, biking, driving, taking the bus, or a subway, you will surely not get lost with KakaoMap. In case you are taking a mode of public transport, it will show you the detailed itinerary for your route, including real-time arrival and traffic information.
It is fully available in English. A good alternative to this app that offers an identical service in South Korea would be NAVER Map.
3 – Kakao T
The last entry in our ‘Kakao trilogy’ is Kakao T, a taxi booking app that works as an alternative for Uber or Lift – which are not available in South Korea. You can set up payment directly through the app or choose to pay the driver at the end of the trip with cash or credit/debit card.
It includes other useful features like intercity bus or train booking, as well as helping you find nearby parking lots. You can even rent a whole shuttle bus for a personalized route on the app.
There are no other similar services available. There is, however, Kakao Driver. This one allows you to book a designated driver in case you had a drink or two and still need to bring your car (and yourself) home.
4 – KORAIL (코레일톡)
While on the topic of transportation, you might find it useful to download KORAIL (코레일톡), the number one train booking app in South Korea. It was launched by Korail itself, the corporation that operates South Korea’s high-speed rail system.
The app offers booking services in four languages: Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese. There are more options made available in the Korean version, but you are able to use the main functionalities in any language, like purchasing and keeping an e-ticket, without any issues.
5 – NAVER Papago
NAVER Papago is by far the best Korean automated translator. It is an AI translator, which makes it able to learn from mistakes and optimize for future use. It currently supports 13 languages, including Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese (Simplified/Traditional), Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, Russian, German, and Italian. You may use it offline as well.
It has image recognition, which means it can translate written text that you photograph. It also does real-time voice translation. There is a dictionary function that allows you to see synonyms and definitions for translated words. You may also see those same words used in a sentence on whichever language you are translating to and from.
6 – LingoDeer
Speaking of languages, this app is not Korean but can be very helpful ahead of your visit or move. LingoDeer is a language learning app where you can grasp the basics of Korean through mini-classes and grammar reviews. It was designed for people who are looking to learn Asian languages.
It is very helpful for those who are learning from the beginning without making the lessons too repetitive and uninteresting. It also contains recorded audio of native speakers and can be used offline.
7 – Baedal Minjok
Baedal Minjok is one of the many food delivery apps in South Korea. It is not available in English but it is available in all provinces in Korea. To make up for the language limitation, it is quite easy to use, having a search catalog based on images.
Yogiyo is another famous choice that happens to be available in English, but it is not as widely available. Two other options that are available in Seoul and a couple of other major cities are Coupang Eats and Shuttle.
8 – Coupang
And because not only food gets delivered in South Korea, you might want to consider installing Coupang too. It is one of the largest online retailers in the country. It is best known for provides same-day or next-day delivery and it has an estimated success rate of 99.6%.
What will Coupang deliver to you, you may ask? Anything you would ever need from a grocery store, appliances, clothes and shoes, cosmetics, and much more. It is essentially the bridge that connects manufacturers and retailers to the customer. Besides, some items are sold at wholesale price, meaning without the retailer’s markup.
It is especially good for when you are running out of food but do not have the time or the disposition to go grocery shopping. Simply buy the items on your phone and they will show up on the doorstep the next day!
9 – NAVER
NAVER is a South Korean online platform operated by Naver Corporation. It is essentially an elevated search engine. It is also very commonly used by South Koreans to do their shopping, as most national stores make their products available on the platform. Much like Coupang, you can find pretty much anything you would need to buy. But NAVER is perhaps more expansive in terms of options for clothing, shoes, accessories, and even niche items.
Since its launch in 1999, it has expanded its services monumentally. Some of the expansions include NAVER Blog, NAVER Cafe, NAVER TV, and another one that is significantly more popular than the others, which we will cover next.
10 – Webtoon
Our last entry is not necessarily a mandatory one but it will undoubtedly keep you entertained when you cannot find anything better to do (which is almost impossible in South Korea). Webtoon is a service launched by NAVER in 2004, a webtoon publishing portal. Since 2014, artists from all over the world have been uploading their own work to the app.
The stories that come out of Webtoon are so beloved that there have been several movie, TV show, and animation adaptations over the last decade. Also, there are contests held nearly every year for amateur webtoon creators, in which they can win incredible money prizes.
Regardless of whatever genre you enjoy, you will surely find a webtoon that will keep you busy and will welcome you into the 21st-century comic culture.
We did not mention any banking apps (although some of these have banking services) as those will vary depending on the bank. If you have not yet opened a South Korean bank account, you can check out our article on which bank you should choose, how you can open a bank account, and how to apply for credit.
Hopefully, you will find these apps useful during your time in South Korea. We know we do!
And if you use any other apps that we did not mention here today, feel free to suggest them to other readers in the comment section.
Until next time!