With its strongly competitive scene and super fast internet, Korea is a digital haven for those who wish to play video games and participate in the online community. For many foreigners, gaming in Korea offers insanely fast and affordable internet access as well as PC rooms armed with the most popular games on high spec PCs.

However, for serious gamers, gaming in Korea isn’t quite as simple as popping in your favorite game into your console and jumping online. There are several factors that can often complicate your gaming experience ranging from purchasing games to getting certain apps to work. Rest assured that after spending several years here and putting hundreds of hours into gaming, I’ve found some of the most efficient and pain free ways to keep on gaming in Korea.

Problem: Buying Games Online in Korea

Most foreigners in Korea have access to a bank/check card to make purchases. While some would believe that purchasing a digital game would be as simple as entering your card number, it’s not. Console online services such as PSN and XBLA are restricted to region based cards only, making your Korean card useless in making purchases. While PC distribution services such as Steam and GOG are more lenient in accepting Korean bank cards, your purchases are occasionally restricted due to publishing rights on certain games (more on that later).

Solution: Digital Codes from Online Retailers 

amazon-top-5-best-selling-game-ps4 gamepur

Outside of using a credit card from your home country, the best option is to purchase digital codes from a variety of online retailers such as Amazon, eBay and PlayAsia. These codes usually come in varying increments and become available to use as soon as you purchase them. Most major services also accept Paypal as an alternate means to pay as well.

Problem: Games and Content Locked in Korea

Going back to locked content, some services (especially Steam and Origin) offer restriction on what games you can purchase due to licensing rights differing from country to country, making certain games and DLC impossible to purchase while living in Korea.

Solution: A Little Web Address Hacking (relax, its nothing complicated) 

digitalspy steam

While games may be blocked through the application, a simple visit to the game’s website can make all the titles available for purchase with minimal effort. By simply visiting the Steam website in your browser and adding a sequence of letters and symbols and then the abbreviation of your country (store.steampowered.com/?cc=us is what I would type), any game available in your region is now available to purchase in Korea.

Problem: Buying a Console in Korea

Some expats prefer to purchase consoles in Korea while living here. While this may seem like a good idea at first (seemingly eliminating the need for overseas shipping, excessive electronics tax and the hassle of taking it back home with you), Korean consoles are still region-locked. And while some games and consoles are region free (such as the PS3), some games and the content that goes with them are not. A Wii or 3DS purchased in Korea will only play Korean Wii games. A Korean copy of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on PS3 will only support DLC from the Korean PSN store and also require Korean PSN credits to purchase.

Solution: Buying Korean or Importing from Home

If you’re OK with Korean in your games or don’t plan on purchasing additional content, then purchasing a console in Korea is a safe bet. However, if this isn’t an option, lugging your console overseas or shipping it are your only remaining options. Both options are not cheap however and could bring charges of up to 200,00 won.

gameinformer consoles

Solution #2: Utilizing the Expat Community 

Another cheaper option is to utilize the expat community and purchase consoles secondhand. Many expat websites such as Waygook, Dave’s ESL Cafe, Craigslist and various Facebook groups have a good amount of posts of expats selling consoles. A majority of the time these consoles come with additional games or controllers for a fraction of the price of a new item.

Gaming in Korea has been one of the best experiences I have ever had playing games. With just a few tweaks and tricks, you too can experience the best of both worlds and have an enjoyable gaming experience.


Photos courtesy of Gamespur, DigitalSpy, Game Informer, and Wall321.

About The Author

Kyle Hovanec

Kyle Hovanec currently lives and works in Incheon, South Korea. He has contributed to several print and online publications in South Korea, including Groove Magazine.