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I'm currently travelling in South Korea, home of major smartphone companies such as Samsung. It's a country in a technology boom where everybody wants to have the latest gadgets.

That implies they no longer want their gadget from last year or two years ago. So I'm hoping I can buy a used smartphone at a bargain price. But so far I can't find any for sale!

  • There's a huge electronics market called Yongsan Electronics Market, but it's not very like its counterpart in Tokyo, Akihabara - I wasn't able to find any shops selling used items.
  • Though pawnbrokers do exist, they are very hard to find, work very differently to in western countries, and don't operate like shops/stores. I went to one with a Korean friend but he had trouble understanding what I was expecting to find and the proprieter at the window said they had no phones anyway.

New phone shops are everywhere, phone accessory shops and roadside stalls are everywhere. Everybody I know, both local and expat has a very modern smartphone but doesn't seem to be able to answer my question about what happens to peoples' previous phones when they upgrade.

I believe most phones here are unlocked and people buy their own phone rather than get it with a contract as some kind of rent/lease package. That makes me believe people buy and own their phones ... but I haven't been able to find out for sure.

Is there a way to find and purchase a used smartphone in Seoul, South Korea?

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    seoul.craigslist.co.kr/mob I'm not sure, if that's what you are looking for, because it's not a shop – Dirty-flow Nov 2 '12 at 11:43
  • @Dirty-flow: I thought it would be too difficult to buy from classifieds becasue I hardly know any Korean and I don't expect as good deals from the expats here. Also my being without a phone might make it difficult to contact the sellers. – hippietrail Nov 2 '12 at 12:06
  • you can contact the sellers per e-mail and all of the offers are on english, so the contact shouldn't be a problem – Dirty-flow Nov 2 '12 at 13:11
  • It does give me some idea about price. I still wouldn't be surprised if prices might be lower from non English-speaking sellers. – hippietrail Nov 2 '12 at 13:13
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There are a huge amount of new phone shops almost everywhere, but I hardly remember where used phone stores are. Probably the reason will be simple--there's no money in the used phone business.

Buying a new phone in Korea also means signing a contract (usually for 2 years) with a mobile service provider. It makes money for manufacturers, mobile service providers, and distributors (sellers). Buyers must use it and pay it for two years, or otherwise pay back a penalty for breach. For that reason, people could buy a phone at a lower price than its release price with some support from mobile service provider.

Thinking about buying a new phone without a contract. It is almost impossible in Korea. Manufacturers sell the phone only through mobile service providers with a contract. Even if there are some products to sell, you should pay its release price.

Then, if we brought a new one, where were the used phones going? If I want to buy used one (or want to sell my out-dated one), I'll definitely go to on-line market. Actually, there are some well-known market and communities:

  • Gmarket / Auction : Both in the eBay family, usually phones are sold by phone brokers. Very little information or photos of used phones. Hard to figure out its conditions. Only supports Korean.

  • Joong-go-na-ra : The biggest on-line flea market forum in Korea. Sold by individuals. Based on Naver service (Korean portal). Be aware there's many scammers! Only supports Korean.

  • Ppom-ppu : Well-known community for sharing information all about phones. User-based community. Sold by individuals. Only supports Korean.

  • Cetizen : Also a lot of used phone deals happen here. Sold by individuals. Only supports Korean.

I think these four are very lively communities for used phones. It is sad most communities only support Korean.

p.s. Speaking of pawnbrokers - we are very unfamiliar with 'pawnbrokers'. In most cases other than very urgently needed money, we never go there.

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    Sounds like a business opportunity for an entrepreneurial weegook (-; Thanks for you excellent information. Some friends in Korea did tell me that you usually hand over your old phone when upgrading to a new phone. The fact that these old phones don't show up visibly on the market made me think there's probably a hidden side of the business that ships bulk trade-in phones to poorer countries like India perhaps, where I saw tons and tons of used phones. I guess a quantity are recycled too. – hippietrail Nov 15 '12 at 23:01

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