- Censorship in South Korea
- Online Speech in South Korea
- Surveillance and Privacy
- Cyberattacks in South Korea
Beyond the modern architecture in its capital, Seoul, South Korea, boasts green, hilly countryside, Buddhist temples and coastal fishing villages. Because it’s famous for its use of technology and fast internet speeds, you’re bound to go online there, so it’s a good idea to use one of our best VPNs for South Korea.
Using a virtual private network is a smart idea in any location. It will keep you protected from online dangers and help you bypass restrictions, such as geoblocks. South Korea’s internet is not as restrictive as some countries’ — read our piece on the Great Firewall of China for an example of how bad it can get — but there is filtering and blocking activity.
Censorship in South Korea
Internet censorship is operated through two committees: the Korean Communications Committee and the Korean Communication Standards Committee. The KCC was established first, in 2008, and regulates media. The KCSC is a subcommittee of the KCC and only regulates the internet. Internet service providers receive orders to enforce blocks from it.
ISPs block content that’s deemed to be in violation of laws or social norms, as well as content that threatens national security or public morality. There is also substantial censorship on election-related discourse.
Websites containing pornographic content are illegal in South Korea and and have been blocked since 2009. Anyone found to be distributing pornography can be slapped with a fine or two-year prison sentence.
Internet content is monitored by the KCSC and content hosts or other service providers must comply with its standards or the CEO can face up to two years imprisonment or a fine of up to 20 million South Korean won ($18,000). The KCSC has a team of in-house monitoring officers, but it will also consider requests from other agencies and individuals.
The KCSC often gets criticized for its vague definition of what should be censored. The standards are so broad, it allows commissioners to make biased decisions about what content should be censored. At times, the commission blocks entire websites when only a small number of posts are considered a problem.
In 2017, 66,659 websites were blocked and 15,499 were deleted. There isn’t a list of which websites were blocked, but you can view the categories of the content. They include gambling, illegitimate food and medicine, obscenity, violation of other laws and regulations and violation of others’ rights.
Article 7 of the 1948 National Security Act prohibits content that praises and promotes North Korea. The KCSC can remove content after receiving a takedown request from individuals, the police or government agencies. Companies sometimes remove user-generated content if they feel it violates the law to avoid legal liability.
Online service providers are also responsible for removing child pornography under Article 17 of the Children and Youth Protection Act. Failure to do so can result in the CEO receiving up to three years in prison or a fine of up to 20 million South Korean won ($18,000). The popular mobile messaging app KakaoTalk was charged after underage users shared explicit images.
Online Speech in South Korea
Freedom of speech is guaranteed by South Korea’s constitution, but it also allows for restrictions to speech that may violate the honor or rights of a person or undermine public morals and social ethics. There are laws that restrict freedom of expression online, as well.
With the 1948 National Security Act, anyone who praises or expresses sympathy for the North Korean regime can be handed a prison sentence of up to seven years. For example, in 2018, a 53-year-old man was sentenced to one year in prison after he posted 54 articles on his blog that praised the North Korean regime and promoted its propaganda.
The 1990 Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act applies to online and offline communications between South Koreans and North Koreans. Anyone engaging with websites or pages maintained by North Korea must report it to the government in advance. Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to 1 million South Korean won ($900).
Online defamation is a criminal offense in South Korea and is punishable by up to seven years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million South Korean won ($45,000) under the 2005 Information and Communications Network Act. Online defamation cases were up to 13,348 in 2017.
In one example, a 70-year-old man was charged for defamation in 2017 and fined 5 million South Korean won ($4,500) after posting on his blog that former first lady, Lee Hui-ho, was getting re-married to American rapper Dr. Dre for money laundering purposes.
Surveillance and Privacy
Government officials have been accused of surveilling people on KakaoTalk and the company has faced pressure to comply with data requests from the government. Many of the accusations were in 2014, after the Sewol ferry disaster, and it was said that private KakaoTalk communications were accessed by prosecutors.
In 2015, leaked documents from the company Hacking Team indicated the National Intelligence Service purchased surveillance software that would enable it to monitor digital activity, especially on domestic devices and services, such as KakaoTalk. The NIS admitted purchasing the software, but said it was only used to analyze material related to North Korea.
An antiterrorism law providing the NIS with more power to invade privacy was enacted in 2016. It allows the agency to access individuals travel records, financial information, communications and location data. The information can be accessed without judicial authorization.
Service providers are allowed to retain users’ personal data for one year and some surrender individuals’ data to the NIS and other authorities. If a service provider receives a request for data, it has a legal duty to inform the subject, but companies have been criticized for failing to comply.
Users are required to provide mobile service providers with their Resident Registration Number and, in some cases, internet users are required to verify their identities.
Cyberattacks in South Korea
Cybercrime is a big problem in many countries, just look at our best VPN for Thailand for an example. Lots of people connect to public WiFi, but there’s no way of knowing how secure the connection is. Plus, there are other attacks that have been reported.
During the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, a cyberattack infected internet connectivity and the Olympics’ website. Those who attended the event were affected, too. Reports showed that Russian military spies had hacked hundreds of computers used at the Olympics and tried to make it look like a North Korean operation.
Statistics show that the number of cyberattacks is increasing. Officials have said that North Korea is behind cyberattacks on major banks, broadcasting stations and even nuclear power plants. It was also blamed for an attack that seized control of the Seoul Metropolitan University Hospital network in 2015 and lasted eight months.
All that highlights the vulnerabilities in South Korea’s online infrastructure and is another reason to protect yourself with one of our best VPN providers and a decent antivirus.
Best VPN for South Korea 2021
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
- : PayPal, Credit card, PayNearMe, Bank/Wire Transfer
- : 5
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 30
What Makes a VPN the Best for South Korea
There are many features that make up a good VPN, but some are better than others. Many VPN providers will get you what you want, but you need to make sure it’s suitable for South Korea.
For South Korea you want to make sure to get high-quality security, including a kill switch. That will keep you protected from online dangers and hidden from surveillance. The kill switch kicks in by severing your connection if the VPN fails, stopping sensitive data from being leaked.
It’s also important to select one that doesn’t log your online activities, so no one can see what you’ve been doing.
A large server network is beneficial. The more servers available in more places, the easier it will be for you to get around restrictions. For example, if you want to access U.S. Netflix, you’ll need servers in the U.S. The same goes for Netflix Korea or any other South Korean content — you’ll need to connect to Korean servers. If you want Netflix, we make recommendations in our best VPN for Netflix piece.
Speed is another important factor. Unless you like the hypnotizing swirl of on loading screens, you’ll need a VPN that has decent speeds. It should also have unlimited bandwidth because the VPN will stop working and leave you open to attacks if you hit a bandwidth limit.
There are other aspects you may want to consider, as well, such as user-friendliness, what devices it can be installed on, how many devices you can connect at once, the quality of customer service and price.
1. Best VPN for South Korea: NordVPN
NordVPN is the best VPN for South Korea. It’s one of the best VPN providers on the market and is often featured in our articles. You’ll be protected by excellent security, including its double-hop encryption. A kill switch is provided with the service and there’s a strict no-logs policy.
It has more than 5,000 servers around the world, including eight in South Korea, which is the most we came across.
There’s no limit to bandwidth and it has decent speeds, though they can slow down when connecting over long distances. Switching servers is fast and easy.
If you want to stream your favorite shows, you’ll be happy to know NordVPN is able to get into most services, including Netflix. Read our full NordVPN review for more on the company.
Other Reasons We Like NordVPN
NordVPN is compatible with Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and its clients are easy to use. You can connect up to six devices simultaneously.
If you run into trouble, you can check out the useful knowledgebase to see if you can work it out yourself. If you’re still stuck after that, you can contact a member of support through live chat or email. Whichever route you choose, the staff is helpful, but live chat will get you the fastest response.
The monthly price is affordable and you get good value for your money. Still, if you opt for a longer subscription, you’ll save money in the long run. If you’re worried about committing, though, there’s a 30-day refund period for peace of mind.
- kill switch
- No-logging policy
- Large server network
- Inconsistent speed across network
CyberGhost is another good choice for South Korea. Its server network consists of over 4,000 servers worldwide and it has seven servers in South Korea, so you can access content from there.
Its security is good and your privacy is respected with a no-logging policy.
Like NordVPN, it has fast speeds, but it can get slow if you’re connecting to a server that’s far away. There are no bandwidth restrictions, meaning you can stream or download as much as you like. Our CyberGhost review is a more in-depth look at the service.
Other Reasons We Like CyberGhost
You can use it on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. Its interface was updated recently and it’s better than the previous version, but it may still take getting used to. Up to seven devices can be connected at the same time, earning it second place in our best VPN for multiple devices article.
There’s an extensive knowledgebase in case you have issues. Plus, you can talk to a member of the staff through live chat or email 24/7, with live chat providing the fastest response time.
It has a fair monthly price, but you’ll save money if you sign up for a longer plan. You can use the seven-day trial for Android and iOS, to make sure you like it. There’s also a money-back guarantee that covers all platforms.
- Automatic kill switch
- Gets into Netflix
- 7 simultaneous connections
- No kill switch controls
We also recommend ExpressVPN because it offers a great service. It only missed the top spot because it has fewer servers in South Korea that NordVPN. Still, it has a large network of servers that covers 94 countries and includes two in South Korea.
ExpressVPN has excellent security out of the box and you can increase the encryption level. Plus, there’s a strict no-logs policy to protect your privacy.
You should have no problem loading content as it’s the fastest VPN around. That said, it’s slow at switching servers. It has unlimited bandwidth, though, and it’s our best VPN for streaming. Have a look at our ExpressVPN review for more on the company.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
You can use ExpressVPN on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. Plus, there are browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome and Safari. It’s user-friendly and a good choice if you want a VPN that works out of the box. It allows up to five devices to be connected at the same time, which should be enough.
It has good customer support, with a large knowledgebase as your first stop. If you still need help after consulting it, you can contact the support staff 24/7 through live chat or email. It responds slower than other providers, but it still provides good service.
ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive VPNs available, which is a let down, but it offers a high-quality service and is well worth the money. You can save money by subscribing to a longer period. If you’re wary of taking the plunge, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Easy to use
- Accesses all streaming services
- Massive knowledgebase
Our next choice, HideMyAss, made the list because it has six servers in South Korea. It’s not as good as our other selections, but it’s not bad. You get good security that’s set at AES 256-bit encryption and a kill switch.
HideMyAss’s server network is one of its strong points because it covers 190 countries, which is way more than its rivals. It has a total of 900 servers, which is fewer than some providers have, but should still be enough for you to find a suitable one.
Its speeds should be fine for most activities. It also has unlimited bandwidth and it can access most streaming platforms.
Other Reasons We Like HideMyAss
HideMyAss’s easy-to-use clients are compatible with Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. It lets you connect up to five devices at the same time, too.
Customer support is available in the form of a knowledgebase, live chat and email. The live chat is fast, but you might have to wait quite a while for a reply if you use the email option, as you can read in our HideMyAss review.
Its monthly plan is expensive compared to other services. That said, you can use the seven-day trial to make sure you like it first. If you do, remember to cancel it before it ends or you’ll receive a bill for a 12-month subscription. You’ll still be able to use the full seven days if you cancel. If you forget, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- kill switch
- Over 900 servers
- Gets into Netflix
- No choice of encryption protocols
- Logs information
Our last selection has good security and encryption, including its proprietary Chameleon protocol, which provides even more protection to the VPN tunnel. There’s also a built-in kill switch and it doesn’t keep a log of your online activity.
There are servers in 64 countries, with some located in Seoul. It doesn’t have the best speeds, but it should be fine for most activities. There are no limits to bandwidth.
Though it can get into U.S. Netflix and BBC iPlayer, you may have trouble getting into other services. Have a look at our VyprVPN review for more details.
Other Reasons We Like VyprVPN
There are desktop clients for Windows and macOS. They’re fine once you get used to them, but the layouts could be better. Mobile apps for Android and iOS are available, too, with VyprVPN being one of the best VPNs for Android. Up to 30 devices can be connected simultaneously, too, as long as you sign up through the website. If you sign up through the mobile app, you only get five.
If you need assistance, there’s a helpful FAQ section that should be enough for small issues. Failing that, there’s live chat and email for getting a hold of customer support. The live chat is quicker, but email is the better way to go if you have a more technical problem.
VyprVPN has an affordable monthly price, but you can save money in the long run by opting for a longer subscription. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee, too, so you can make sure you like it.
- Chameleon protocol
- Disappointing network
Now you know why you should use a VPN in South Korea. We hope we’ve helped you choose a suitable one, too. You need to get a VPN with good security and privacy, as well as a decent server network that includes some in South Korea if you want content that’s restricted to the country.
We’ve chosen NordVPN as our winner as it has excellent security and the opportunity to encrypt your connection twice over. Plus, it honors your privacy. It has a massive network of servers, including eight in South Korea, and it’s great for getting into streaming services, such as Netflix.
If you have experience in or have tips for using a VPN in South Korea, drop us a comment below. We’d love to read them. Take a look at our other VPN articles, too. Thank you for reading.