South Korea might not censor the internet as heavily as China or the UAE, but there are definitely restrictions in place. You can quickly and easily increase online security with a VPN, though: they encrypt your traffic, preventing it from being read by the government, your Internet Service Provider (ISP), or malicious third parties.
Additionally, VPNs enable you to route your traffic through servers elsewhere in the world. This grants you a temporary, region-specific IP address, letting you easily bypass country-wide restrictions and freely access the internet. This is useful in countries with strict online censorship, but also makes it very simple to access popular services from home while traveling abroad including US Netflix, BBC and many others.
In this article, we’ll cover each VPN that works in South Korea in detail. If you don’t want to read the whole article, here’s our summary list of the best VPN service providers for South Korea:
- NordVPN Our first choice for South Korea! More security options than most VPNs. Zero logs kept. Superfast speeds and great at unblocking. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Surfshark Budget choice. A security and privacy-conscious service with good speeds, no connection limit, and the ability to easily bypass South Korean internet restrictions.
- ExpressVPN Fast connection speeds and unblocks most popular streaming services. Secure and private.
- IPVanish Fast connections with up to ten connections permitted.
- PrivateVPN Good unblocking potential. Has a no logging policy.
- Hotspot Shield This service is very fast, with easy-to-use apps and a host of powerful security features, making it a natural choice for South Korean users.
- CyberGhost Versatile, inexpensive VPN, offers one-click unblocking.
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Best VPN service providers for South Korea
With so many different VPNs on the market, it’s often difficult to accurately compare one to another. To find the best VPNs for South Korea, we looked for services with the characteristics below:
- Able to bypass South Korean internet restrictions.
- Offers a fast, reliable connection.
- Has a large network of servers, with multiple servers in high-traffic countries like the US.
- Uses effectively uncrackable encryption and offers additional, more advanced security features.
- Does not log any personally identifiable information. Ideally keeps no logs whatsoever.
- Includes apps for all of the most popular operating systems and devices.
Below, you’ll find our list of the best VPNs for bypassing internet censorship in South Korea.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN is our top pick for a South Korea VPN. It has one of the largest server networks available, with more than 5,500 servers spanning 59 countries which also includes 10 servers in South Korea. It pegs incredible speeds and is more than fast enough to stream live HD video with no noticeable buffering, and unblocks some of the most popular streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, and Sling TV. Further, NordVPN offers specific servers optimized for P2P file-sharing, DDoS protection, and using the internet from countries with strict online censorship.
This service includes a wealth of security features. It uses 256-bit strong encryption and protects against WebRTC, DNS, IPv6, and port-forwarding leaks. Users can turn on automatic ad-blocking and malware-scanning, use two VPNs simultaneously, or even access Tor over VPN. NordVPN has a strict no-logs policy, meaning your activities stay private at all times. If you’d like to register anonymously, you can use a disposable email address and pay with Bitcoin.
NordVPN apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. The service requires manual installation to work with network routers.
- Unmatched download speeds
- Huge network of servers
- More security options than most VPNs
- Servers optimized for various tasks
- Zero logs kept
- 24/7 chat support
- The desktop app can be slow to connect
BEST VPN FOR SOUTH KOREA:NordVPN is our top pick. It enables you to perfectly tailor your security setup. It’s a strong, general-purpose VPN with high speeds, great unblocking ability, and servers optimized for specific tasks. Includes a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full NordVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Surfshark is a great low-cost alternative. It has more than 3,200 VPN server locations across 65+ countries including South Korea. It offers unlimited bandwidth, reasonable internet connection speeds, and excellent unblocking ability, which means you won’t have any problems, whether you’re using P2P networks, streaming Netflix US, or just browsing. Unlike most VPNs, Surfshark has no connection limit and as such, you can protect every device you have with just one account.
This service takes your security seriously. It uses 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and protection against IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks to keep your traffic secure, although you can let certain apps bypass the VPN using the built-in split tunneling functionality. Surfshark even has a NoBorders feature that lets you browse freely in countries with strict online blocking (like South Korea). This service doesn’t log any personally identifiable information but you can pay in Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Ripple for greater anonymity. Support is available via 24/7 live chat.
Surfshark offers apps for iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, and Linux. It can also be manually installed on supported internet routers.
- Unblocks a wide range of region-locked services
- Fast enough for HD streaming
- Takes your security and online privacy seriously
- Unlimited connections
- Around-the-clock support
- Some slow download speeds
BEST BUDGET VPN:Surfshark lets you browse the internet freely in South Korea, and its powerful security and privacy features mean you’re effectively untraceable once connected. This VPN is fast, allows an unlimited number of connections, and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full Surfshark review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN is a fast service offering secure access to more than 3,000 fast servers in 94 countries. It’s highly versatile, with excellent multi-platform support, the option to choose not just your desired country, but city too, and the ability to access platforms like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video.
This VPN protects your traffic with 256-bit AES military-grade encryption, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and perfect forward secrecy. Its desktop apps include a kill switch that automatically blocks any data transfer if you disconnect unexpectedly. ExpressVPN offers 24/7 support over live chat. Best of all, this service doesn’t log any information that could identify you, and you can even pay with Bitcoin for increased anonymity.
ExpressVPN comes with apps for Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. It must be manually configured on routers, but ExpressVPN has custom firmware to make this straightforward as possible.
- Fast speeds
- Highly secure
- Apps for all popular platforms
- Great for video streaming and content unblocking
- 24/7 chat support
- More expensive than other providers on this list
PRIVACY-FIRST VPN:ExpressVPN is in our top 3 thanks to its fast download speeds, ease of use, expansive server network, and the number of services it can unblock. Plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
IPVanish is perfect for those looking to protect lots of connected devices as it boasts lightweight apps and strong multi-platform support, and allows up to 10 connections at once. It’s very fast and capable of streaming HD content without any buffering or stuttering. IPVanish has over 1,300 servers across more than 60 countries so it allows South Korean users to access a huge range of otherwise inaccessible online content.
256-bit encryption is enabled by default, as are DNS and IPv6 leak protection. However, IPVanish’s security features don’t stop there: there’s also a kill switch (in both desktop and mobile versions), a LAN traffic blocker, OpenVPN obfuscation, and the ability to change IP address at preset intervals. This service doesn’t log any information that could see your activities being traced back to you. Need help? No problem, customer support is available over live chat, 24/7.
IPVanish has apps for Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, and Firestick. It also works with Linux systems and select routers, but you’ll have to configure it manually.
- Lightweight apps, good multi-platform support
- Fast connections
- Several unique security features
- Up to 10 connections permitted
- Can’t unblock as many streaming services as some of its rivals
- No anonymous payment options
TEN SIMULTANEOUS CONNECTIONS:IPVanish makes it easy to protect all of your connected devices at once. With high connection speeds and advanced security features on offer, it’s a solid general-purpose VPN.
Read our full IPVanish review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
PrivateVPN doesn’t have the largest network around (around 150 servers in 60 countries) but it does offer faster connection speeds than most. In fact, it’s fast enough to stream live HD video without any issues whatsoever. Better still, this VPN can reliably access services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video from abroad. With up to six connections permitted, PrivateVPN lets you protect most of your devices simultaneously.
PrivateVPN offers apps for Windows, Android, MacOS, Linux and iOS. After some manual configuration, it even works with supported internet routers.
- Faster than average connection speeds
- Good unblocking potential
- Accepts Bitcoin
- Zero-logs policy
- Smaller network than most
- No live chat support
GREAT FOR STREAMING:PrivateVPN provides fast connections and allows you to unblock a wide range of geo-blocked services abroad. Further, its no-logging policy provides peace of mind for security-conscious users.
Read our full PrivateVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
Editor’s Note: Hotspot Shield is owned by Pango, Comparitech’s parent company.
Hotspot Shield has a large network, with 3,000 servers across more than 70 countries (South Korea included). This service’s fast speeds make it ideal for file-sharing, but as it works with stubborn platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and ITV Hub, it’s a great choice for video streaming too. Hotspot Shield allows you to use up to five connected devices at once.
This VPN might have simplistic-looking apps but don’t be fooled; there are numerous advanced security features built-in. These include DNS and IPv6 leak protection, 256-bit encryption, and a kill switch that prevents you from browsing unprotected. If you’d like, you can choose certain websites to bypass the VPN too. Hotspot Shield doesn’t keep any personally identifiable information after your session ends. If you run into any trouble, you can contact customer support 24/7 over live chat.
Hotspot Shield has apps for Android, Windows, iOS, and MacOS. It works with Linux systems and some home routers too, but must be manually installed.
- Strong on security
- Good unblocking capabilities
- Fast, reliable connections
- Spotty record on privacy
- Doesn’t work on Linux
BROWSE UNRESTRICTED:Hotspot Shield is an excellent choice for anyone in South Korea. It’s fast, reliable, and comes with several advanced security features. Better still, this service boasts excellent unblocking ability and includes a 45-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full Hotspot Shield review.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
CyberGhost takes the hassle out of online security. It currently has more than 4,900 servers across 60 countries, making it easy to get a low-latency connection from anywhere in the world. You can choose a task (such as torrenting or streaming) and view a list of suitable servers. CyberGhost allows up to seven simultaneous connections and one-click unblocking for numerous streaming platforms so it’s ideal for those looking to stream on-the-go.
Although this VPN is designed to be as easy to use as possible, it actually has a good range of security features. There’s 256-bit AES encryption, for instance, as well as port forwarding, WebRTC, IPv6, and DNS leak protection. Every version of CyberGhost comes with a kill switch, ensuring you don’t inadvertently browse without protection, even for a second. Best of all, this service logs no personally identifiable information.
CyberGhost has MacOS, Windows, iOS, and Android apps. Manual installation is required for Linux-based systems and wireless routers.
- Versatile, inexpensive VPN
- One-click unblocking
- High download speeds
- Large network of servers
- Doesn’t work in China or the UAE
GOOD FOR NOVICES:CyberGhost is a low-cost friendly service that offers high speeds, the ability to unblock various streaming platforms, and comprehensive protection for people new to VPNs.
Read our full CyberGhost review.
Methodology: Identifying the best VPN providers for South Korea
Unfortunately, not all VPNs are created equal. As such, even if one provider is extremely fast, it might not be the most secure, or even suitable for using in South Korea. To ensure we only recommend well-rounded VPNs that work well in South Korea, we’ve carefully considered the features and functionality you’ll need during your visit and created a list of must-have characteristics:
- Server presence: We’d like to see large networks, ideally with servers in a wide range of countries. This means you’ll be able to use Korean servers for faster speeds or switch to a foreign server to access your usual content.
- Speed: It seems like every VPN claims to be the fastest. Here at Comparitech, we run regular speed tests to see which really is. There’s no marketing hype here, just hard facts backed up with extensive test data.
- Unblocking ability: As of 2020, around 161,500 websites were blocked in South Korea, and countless others (such as YouTube TV) simply inaccessible due to their own geo-blocking. We test various popular services to see which VPNs provide access to the greatest range of content.
- Security: This is extremely important, especially in countries with strict online censorship. As such, we require all of our recommendations to include 256-bit encryption and a kill switch, plus DNS and IPv6 leak protection. Additional features (such as obfuscation, local traffic blocking, or split tunneling) are always welcome.
- Privacy: In South Korea, online defamation is a crime that can see you sentenced to prison, even if what you’re saying is true. For this reason, the ability to post anonymously is vital. This all begins with a no-logs policy. We’d also like to see anonymous payment options and other privacy-enhancing tools like a stealth mode or multi-hop servers.
- User-friendliness: We strongly prefer services that are easy enough for complete beginners to use. 24/7 live chat is a huge bonus, as is the ability to connect any number of devices simultaneously.
- Pricing: We go to great lengths to ensure we only recommend VPNs that are priced fairly. What’s more, we always include details on any available discounts and money-back guarantees, so that you always pay as little as possible.
We actually have a fairly extensive VPN testing process — this was just the first step. Interested? You might want to check out our post explaining how we test VPNs.
Can I bypass South Korea’s internet censorship with a free VPN?
While free VPNs can seem tempting, we don’t recommend using them, particularly in South Korea. To begin with, these services usually can’t bypass government-imposed internet restrictions. However, even if you do manage to get connected, free VPNs usually can’t provide the speeds required to stream without interruption, can’t access services like Netflix, and can’t be relied on as a long-term solution due to data limits and queuing systems.
Further, it can be difficult to even find a free VPN that’s safe to use. A 2016 study showed that of 283 free VPN apps tested, more than 38% attempted to install malware. Perhaps more worryingly, 18% didn’t use any encryption whatsoever, and 84% were vulnerable to IPv6 leaks. Even popular free services have misled their users in the past, with Hola selling idle user bandwidth to facilitate a botnet. For this reason, we recommend using a reputable VPN that doesn’t log any personally identifiable information and respects its users’ privacy.
How to unblock the wider internet in South Korea
Don’t worry: bypassing regional restrictions is very easy, even if you’ve never used a VPN before.
Here’s how to unblock websites in South Korea with a VPN:
- Begin by signing up to a suitable VPN provider (we recommend NordVPN).
- Install the VPN app, making sure to get the right version for your operating system.
- Log in and connect to a server in your desired location. To access geo-blocked services, you’ll have to use a server in the appropriate country, for example, the UK for the BBC iPlayer.
- You should now be free to access the internet unrestricted. If a given site still doesn’t work, try clearing your browser’s cache and cookies before reloading the page.
GET A PAID VPN FOR FREE: If you only need a VPN for a short time, you can take advantage of NordVPN’s 30-day money-back guarantee. Although you’ll be asked to pay upfront, you can cancel at any point during this period to claim a full refund. This effectively gives you completely risk-free premium VPN coverage for a month, with no cost whatsoever.
See also: How to get a Korean IP address
What online content is restricted in South Korea?
South Korea blocks specific types of content, but also requires internet users to identify themselves if they add anything publicly visible (such as a comment) to uncensored sites or want to access pages considered inappropriate for minors. User identities are verified using a Citizen’s Reference number (for South Korean nationals) or a copy of the user’s passport. Below, we’ve created a short list of some of the types of content blocked in South Korea:
- Pro-North Korea sites and comments
- Dissenting political opinions, particularly those concerning the President.
- Gambling sites
While these restrictions aren’t as all-encompassing as those used in countries like China, they still have a fairly wide reach. This is partly due to the country’s “cyber defamation” law.
Unlike in other countries, where defamation involves purposefully making false statements, South Korea’s relevant legislation (Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection, Etc., 2008) makes it a crime to reveal information (whether true or false) with the goal of harming a person’s reputation. This legislation has been used as a tool to crack down on anti-establishment or critical discussion of the government and its officials.
Why else should I use a VPN in South Korea?
If you don’t usually live in South Korea, there are plenty of other benefits to using a VPN. For instance, you’re far more likely to accidentally trigger automated fraud prevention systems when logging into your online banking account from abroad. By using a VPN connected to a server in your home country, you can greatly reduce the chance of this happening.
Additionally, VPNs allow you to access your usual services abroad. You can, for example, use your regular gambling or gaming sites, stream your country’s Netflix library, or check the news on one of several sites that may normally be inaccessible from South Korea. When you consider that VPNs also protect you from monitoring when using public wifi, it becomes clear that they’re an invaluable addition to any traveler’s arsenal.
How to get a free VPN for Korea (free-trial hack)
Looking to get a VPN with South Korea but don’t want to pay for it? While you’re better off avoiding services that market themselves as free, there is a workaround you can use to try a paid VPN free for a month (or perhaps more, depending which you choose). This is great for short visits to South Korea or if you’re just looking to stream a Korean show from abroad.
Here’s how to get a free VPN for South Korea:
- Decide which of the VPNs above you’d like to use.
- Visit the provider’s website and select the one-month plan.
- Enter your payment information like you normally would and finish checking out.
- Your payment method will be charged, but all of the services we’ve recommended come with at least a 30-day money-back guarantee. As such, you can use them as much as you like, then simply ask for a refund before your subscription renews to effectively get free access to a paid VPN for a month.
Worried you won’t get your money back? We’ve tested every VPN on this list and can confirm they all provide a full refund!
VPN for South Korea FAQ
How can I change my IP address to South Korea?
You can get a South Korean IP address in a matter of seconds by connecting to a South Korean VPN server. Don’t be tempted to use a Smart DNS service or proxy server -- while these can make it appear as though you’re in another country, they don’t actually encrypt your traffic at all. In contrast, a VPN will keep your activities safe from prying eyes while allowing you the freedom to do whatever you want online.
Is online gambling legal in South Korea?
South Korea’s gambling laws are both paradoxically very strict and also open to interpretation. Chapter 23 of the Criminal Act (PDF) makes it illegal to gamble “for the purpose of gaining property”, but makes an exception if it’s only for “momentary pleasure”. Currently, no online casinos are allowed to operate, although if you visit the country, you’ll find numerous places where you can place bets.
Is Netflix in South Korea any good?
Users in South Korea can watch a huge range of content including all of the Netflix Original shows like Riverdale. There’s also a strong selection of Korean content, with dramas like Crash Landing On You, and blockbuster hits like Okja, Reply, and Snowpiercer. Prices start at ₩9,500 per month, although there is a 30-day free trial in case you’d like to see what’s on offer for yourself.
Does every VPN have South Korean Servers?
Not every VPN has South Korean servers, but it’s not particularly rare for a provider to have at least a few. In fact, South Korea is probably the second-most-common location in East Asia, after Japan.
There are several reasons why this might be. First, it could be that people in other countries are interested in accessing Korea-only services. This wouldn’t be especially surprising, given the rapidly-increasing popularity of Korean music and TV shows in recent years. However, it could also be that South Korea’s aggressive defamation laws and reported high-level corruption have forced citizens to take a proactive approach to their privacy when speaking their minds online.
Which devices work with a VPN in South Korea?
You can feasibly install a VPN on just about any device, whether you’re in South Korea or not. Most major providers have apps for iOS, Android, MacOS, and Windows, with many supporting Linux as well. Additionally, they almost always include manual setup instructions for getting your VPN running on a home router. This allows you to secure an entire network and reroute traffic from devices that don’t support VPN apps, such as games consoles or some older smart TVs.
Is it legal to use a VPN in South Korea?
There are currently no laws against using a VPN in South Korea. That said, you can still face penalties if you’re caught committing crimes online while connected. As ever, we encourage you to read up on local laws before attempting to use a VPN in a foreign country.
Do you need a VPN to play PUBG from Korea?
In 2021, PUBG Mobile stopped working for users in Korea and Japan. Instead, users from these countries have to switch over to a region-specific version of the app. The game’s developers didn’t provide any reason for this change, but it did update its terms of service to forbid foreign users from playing on the KRJP servers.
It goes without saying that while using a VPN to play with your Korean and Japanese friends is against the rules, there really isn’t anything that can be done to stop you. The desktop version of PUBG is, as yet, unaffected by these restrictions.