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 geo-blocked services from 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 VPNs for South Korea:
- ExpressVPN Our first choice for South Korea! Fast speeds, unblocks most popular streaming services. Secure and private. Includes 30-day money back guarantee.
- NordVPN Budget choice. More security options than most VPNs, Zero logs kept. Great for unblocking and streaming.
- CyberGhost Versatile, inexpensive VPN, offers one click unblocking.
- IPVanish Fast connections, with up to ten connections permitted.
- PrivateVPN Good unblocking potential. Has a no logging policy.
- Surfshark A security and privacy-conscious service with good speeds, no connection limit, and the ability to easily bypass South Korean internet restrictions.
- 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.
Best VPNs 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, 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
ExpressVPN is a very fast service offering access to more than 3,000 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 unblock platforms like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video.
This VPN protects your traffic with 256-bit AES encryption, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and perfect forward secrecy. Its desktop apps include a kill switch that automatically blocks any data transferal 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 streaming and content unblocking
- 24/7 chat support
- More expensive than other providers on this list
BEST VPN FOR SOUTH KOREA:ExpressVPN is our top choice thanks to its fast speeds, ease of use, expansive server network, and the number of services it can unblock.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN has one of the largest server networks available, with more than 5,700 servers spanning 60 countries which also includes 10 servers in South Korea. It’s 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 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 by using a disposable email address and paying with Bitcoin.
NordVPN apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. The service requires manual installation to work with network routers.
- High speeds
- 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 BUDGET VPN:NordVPN provides the ability 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.
Read our full NordVPN 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 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.
Money-back guarantee: 7 DAYS
IPVanish is perfect for those looking to protect lots of 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 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 devices at once. With high 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 80 servers in 57 countries) but it does offer faster speeds than most. In fact, it’s fast enough to stream live HD video without any issues whatsoever. Better still, this VPN is able to reliably unblock 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.
This service uses 256-bit encryption by default and protects against DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks. Bitcoin payments are accepted, meaning you can register almost completely anonymously by combining this and a disposable email address. Additionally, PrivateVPN has a strict zero-logs policy. With your permission, support staff can even remotely connect to your computer and install or configure the software for you.
PrivateVPN offers apps for Windows, Android, MacOS, and iOS. After some manual configuration, it even works with Linux devices and supported internet routers.
- Faster than average 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: 30 DAYS
Surfshark has more than 1,000 servers across 60+ countries including South Korea. It offers unlimited bandwidth, reasonable 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 privacy seriously
- Some slow speeds
- Relatively small network
PRIVACY-FIRST 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: 45 DAYS
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 unblocks stubborn platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and ITV Hub, it’s a great choice for streaming too. Hotspot Shield allows you to connect up to five 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.
- 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.
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 bypass geo-blocking on services like Netflix, and can’t be relied on as a long-term solution due to data limits and queuing systems.
Although these services don’t bill the user upfront, they have other ways to profit from them. Some offer faster speeds in exchange for a monthly fee, while others insert ads into the sites you visit. The problem is that some free VPNs go even further, storing tracking cookies on your device. These allow the provider to gather information such as how often you visit a given website. Once enough consumer data has been stored, it can be sold to the highest bidder without your knowledge.
Finally, 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:
- Begin by signing up to a suitable VPN provider (we recommend ExpressVPN).
- 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 ExpressVPN’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.
- 1 Best VPNs for South Korea
- 2 1. ExpressVPN
- 3 2. NordVPN
- 4 3. CyberGhost
- 5 4. IPVanish
- 6 5. PrivateVPN
- 7 6. Surfshark
- 8 7. Hotspot Shield
- 9 Can I bypass South Korea’s internet censorship with a free VPN?
- 10 How to unblock the wider internet in South Korea
- 11 What online content is restricted in South Korea?
- 12 Why else should I use a VPN in South Korea?