Apps You Need to Live in Korea

My phone is looking rather different lately–and not just my shinee background.  The apps I use on a daily basis are nothing like the apps I use back home.

If you have an android, I feel sorry for you for multiple reasons, but mainly because this post won’t apply as much. There may be android versions, but you’re going to have to do that research yourself.

/it’s your own fault for buying an android/

*note—a lot of these apps will not be found in the American search application. You have to change your app store settings to Korea, a detailed instruction can be found here. Don’t worry, after you download them you can change right back to Amurica, and the apps still work. Wouldn’t want to venture too far out of our comfort zone now would we.

First—make sure you have the Korean keyboard installed. Do this by Settings –> General –> Keyboard –> Keyboards –> Add New Keyboard –> Korean

While you’re here, may as well add the emoji keyboard if you haven’t already. It will change your life.

Don’t worry, it won’t replace your old keyboard. To access it while typing, press the little world icon on the bottom left.

한글 is a phonetic language with 40 letters. Okay, that’s a few more than the Roman alphabet, but a lot of them are double noises you get by pressing the capital letter button. You’ll get what I mean when you try it. Anyway, learning to type in another language is kind of fun even if you have no idea what you’re typing.

Speaking of having no idea what you’re typing,

1. Google Translate: just do it. When you have a 2 hour subway ride, it’s fun to type ads into google translate and see what on earth they’re advertising. Hint: it’s usually plastic surgery or skin whitening.

Also useful when you’re wandering Homeplus, (the love child of Walmart, Home Depot, Stop & Shop, and Best Buy)               looking for a bath towel.

If you’re just visiting Korea, or don’t have a data plan, the best free dictionary IMO is called “Korean English Dictionary +     Translator”. It’s offline and has most of the words you’ll need (though no  helpful phrases).

2. Kakao Talk:

Kakao is the free messaging app that uses internet instead of a phone plan. If someone asks for your number, they most likely mean your Kakao. You can tell them your id, or pull up your personal QR code. They open their QR reading app and jang! you’re connected. Which is pretty dang cool.

Kakao also has a taxi service app. Since the Korean government declared uber illegal, Kakao took it open themselves to create a taxi calling service. I haven’t actually tried it yet seeing as there was only one time I needed a taxi and there weren’t any driving by (I’m looking at you Jeju Ecoland)

Kakao also has super creepy emoticon characters that for some reason Koreans find appropriate, like a heart that looks like a butt and a terrifying blue cat. But they grow on you.


The other free messaging app that’s catching on is LINE. It took me months to get the pun (I’ll talk to you ON LINE get it???) I use it to talk to people back home because it’s available internationally. Also because of the shinee stickers.


look mom and dad now you know what I’m saying

3. Subway Korea:

Bless this app. If you’re not a city girl but you’re living in Seoul, this app will be the best thing that ever happened to you. It’s so important, it won’t even be in a folder, but on the front page next to your photos and settings.

It shows not only the entire subway system, but can show you how long it will take you to get from Station A to Station B and the shortest route from Station A to Station B. It also shows you important exit information for each station, and the times of the first and last trains (most trains stop at midnight and begin at 5am. Remember that.) And if you have internet connection, it will even show you a live train feed.

Bless Praise Live Long and Prosper Subway Korea creators. You deserve every great thing this world has to offer.


hallelujah praise

4. Yogiyo

Literally translates to “here it is”, yogiyo is another incredible creation that deserves an award. Just about every establishment in Korea delivers food. Using your location, it shows you all the restaurants in your immediate area that will bring food, well, here. It uses your location to contact the restaurant so you can literally get food anywhere—from sitting in front of the Han River to your hotel room.


what do you feel like today?


how about some chicken

5. Naver Map

It’s like a functioning Apple Maps. And it’s better than Google Maps because it’s specifically Korean. Yes, the options are all in Korean, but it’s worth it seeing as the places you are looking up are likely in Hangul too. (aka why you need that korean keyboard!)

Like Google Maps, it shows the best way to get from Point A to Point B, the time and price it takes to walk/drive/subway/bus, and step by step instructions once you’ve picked a route. But it’s better because it has the bus and subway schedules. Also it’s specifically Korean, so these creators know what they’re talking about.


to the stalkers: I am definitely not at this point right now

Other Fun Apps:

1. Wondercam:

Actually a Chinese app, wondercam is like photoshopping before snapping. It makes every selca look like you’re a doll. But it’s real enough that people think, ‘wow she’s really photogenic.’.


nope, it’s all a lie

And because you’re in Korea, you’ll be taking a lot of selcas

2. Melon: Melon is the iTunes of Korea. Which real time music charts, you can listen and download the top hits. You can even attach your purchases to your phone bill, which cuts out that extra credit card step and puts you into even more denial of how much money you’re spending. Which is wonderful. If you’re into that kind of thing.


when you see it

3. Games:

When I asked my kids what they will be doing for Chuseok, over half of them said “game” and when asked for specifics, they said, “handepone game” (pronounced just like that).

Korean cell phone games are pretty intense. I’ve seen boys (and girls) from 5-65 playing hi-def RPG for hours on the subway. There’s dozens of them of them in app store and I don’t have any, but they look like fun. Who doesn’t like shooting goblins and running around collecting items?

Another popular game right now that I catch my kids playing in class is Piano Tiles 2, which is like Guitar Hero but you’re playing Canon in D instead of Living on a Prayer. And who doesn’t want that?

My personal favorite is Everysing, the norabang app you never knew you needed. You can sing along with all the top hits, the hangul playing right beneath. It even gives you a score and you can record yourself and send it to audition for SM Entertainment! But in all seriousness, norabang is the ultimate fun way to increase your reading speed seeing as those letters go by fast. And now you can skip the smoke filled soju smelling couches and do it from your own bedroom. Although there is something charming to norabang.


I spend way too much time here

I’m sure that there are DOZENS of other useful apps. I don’t speak enough Korean to properly find or utilize them, so for now these are my core.


One response to “Apps You Need to Live in Korea

  1. Pingback: of internet and pepero | That One Time in Seoul·

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