I admit, South Korea used to not be a top travel spot on my bucket list. Then — during a time of social isolation and seemingly ceaseless lockdowns — entered Romance is a Bonus Book, the first K-drama I watched and the one that put South Korea on my to visit map. However, when I do visit South Korea, I’ll make sure to use the best VPN for Korea.
Whether you’re traveling to South Korea to do some Seoul Searching, explore the region’s masterful architecture, or detox in the lush green countryside and coastal villages, you’re bound to use the internet. Using a virtual private network (VPN) during your travels will keep your online identity safe and secure.
Plus, I like to have internet access to binge more TV shows from other geo-blocked regions. Using a VPN will allow you to bypass geoblocks to access content and websites you want, torrent files with peace of mind and keep your data away from the sticky fingers of online hackers.
But which VPN should you choose? I recommend ExpressVPN. It’s got high speeds, high security, and high performance, which are exactly what you want in a VPN. It’s also got the most “Seoul” out ofthe VPNs in this article (I’ll stop with the wordplay now, I promise).
If you want to explore your options open, keep reading to see a full breakdown of the best VPNs for Korea.
Why You Need the Best VPN for Korea
Using a VPN during your travels is a good measure to take to protect yourself online. When it comes to South Korea, the reasons for using the best VPN are twofold.
The first reason is to preserve your online privacy. In 2015, a company named Hacking Team leaked documents that showed the purchase of digital surveillance software by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (their version of the NSA).
While the South Korean government attests that it uses this software to conduct surveillance on North Korea, you can never be too careful. An internet service provider (ISP) may also retain the personal data of their internet users for up to one year, and some turn over that data to the NIS.
Second but not least, South Korea’s cyberinfrastructure is at more risk due to its proximity to North Korea. Studies have shown an uptick in the number of cyberattacks, with official sources claiming that North Korea is behind attacks on major South Korean industries. (Luckily you don’t have to worry about internet censorship, like you do with North Korea.)
If you’re traveling and planning to connect to public WiFi spots, there’s no way of telling what third parties can access your data. A malicious hacker could be a peeping Tom, even if you are just watching some K-drama. Still, wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry (and creeped out)?
These regional restrictions are a few reasons why you should protect yourself with a strong VPN. Look for a VPN with decent speeds, reliable connections and high performance across servers. While it’s not a must to have local servers available, VPNs that offer a South Korean server are preferable, especially if you want a local IP address to access South Korean content.
The 5 Best South Korea VPN Services
To save you the hassle of doing your own research, I’ve compiled a list of the top VPNs for Korea. Some are paid and some are free — the final choice is in your hands depending on your budget and needs.
- ExpressVPN — Known for its speed and high performance, this VPN is the best you can use on your travels
- NordVPN — Vast server network and a close runner-up to the first on this list
- VyprVPN — Solid VPN to access geoblocked content for dirt cheap
- Windscribe — The best free VPN to use for casual internet users — but limited
- CyberGhost — For the budget traveler who isn’t too picky about speeds
Intrigued? Keep reading to find out the pros and cons of each service below.
- Easy to use
- Able to access all major streaming services
- Super secure
- Two Korean servers
ExpressVPN is the top choice you can opt for from the crowded VPN marketplace. It has an impressive 3,000 servers across 94 countries, giving you more choice than you need when connecting to different locations. ExpressVPN also has two locations in South Korea, gaining bonus points for the availability of local servers and IP addresses.
ExpressVPN’s security features, speed and performance are all top-notch. Its Korean servers are equipped with ExpressVPN’s own cutting-edge Lightway VPN protocol. It has a strict no-logs policy in place, which means it will never compromise your data or security, and it will keep you safe from the risk of a destructive cyberattack. It’s also considered the fastest VPN, with amazing speeds that’ll allow you to stream TV shows and movies in peace.
The downside to this VPN mammoth? The price. It’s the most expensive VPN on this list, but you get every penny’s worth. Should you want more savings, you can opt for ExpressVPN’s long-term plan. No worries if you change your mind too! ExpressVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee you can cash in on if you feel it’s not a good fit.
- Huge server network
- More than 10 South Korean servers
- Generally fast speeds
- Inconsistent speeds across different networks
- Sparse details about server locations
NordVPN is a close runner-up to ExpressVPN and is known for its extensive network of 5,000 servers, which span across 60 countries. If you’re looking for a VPN that’s just as secure as ExpressVPN yet is slightly more affordable, NordVPN is a good pick.
NordVPN has a dedicated no-logs policy and offers double-hop encryption, which can route your connection through two different VPN servers while browsing, adding an extra layer of security. Another bonus point is that the VPN has the highest number of South Korean servers from the VPNs on this list, meaning you can get a Korean IP address, no problem.
NordVPN offers unlimited bandwidth, which means you can connect from multiple devices and multitask to your heart’s content. Although not as fast (by a small margin) as ExpressVPN, NordVPN is still a good option for streaming. You may have to get used to switching around to different servers if one lags, but this should pose no problem as the server switch time is low.
NordVPN’s monthly price is slightly more affordable than its top competitors, but you still stand to gain more if you sign up for a long-term subscription. NordVPN also offers a 30-day full refund via its money-back guarantee, should you change your mind during your first month with them.
- Secure Chameleon protocol, which helps bypass geo-restrictions
- Up to 30 simultaneous device connections
- Limited servers in Seoul
- Occasionally slow speeds
- Mediocre network
VyprVPN is a great option for those looking to access blocked content from around the world. It has servers in around 70 countries, with some located in Seoul — enough to get you an IP address for the city.
It offers pretty good speeds (though not as good as ExpressVPN), this VPN should be good enough for most online activities in South Korea, like surfing, streaming and torrenting.
Plus its security is strong, thanks to its Chameleon protocol. This technology effectively scrambles users’ metadata and bypasses highly restrictive censorship in countries like China. Based in Switzerland, VyprVPN also takes its no-logs policy very seriously.
VyprVPN’s monthly price is affordable but opt for a longer subscription if you want to get a VPN for less than a cup of coffee each month. The VPN also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so there’s no harm in experimenting with it.
- A decent free plan
- Reliable servers for U.S. Netflix
- Three (paid) servers in South Korea
- A 10GB limit on the free plan
- Unreliable speeds on some servers
- Three-day money-back guarantee
If you’re someone who likes to limit your internet downtime to the bare minimum while traveling, Windscribe could be the VPN for you. Windscribe provides a free monthly plan offering 10GB of data. You get access to 10 servers at no cost, but Windscribe’s three South Korean servers don’t qualify for the free plan.
Windscribe used to be known for its “Windflix” servers — servers exclusively built with Netflix’s geoblocking in mind. These have since been integrated into the regular servers, so you can use any of the 10 free servers to unblock Netflix. However, the server speeds will be a gamble.
The free plan is great for you if you’re on a budget and not keen on streaming the latest season of Money Heist while on your travels. If you use up the free 10GB of data, you can opt for Windscribe’s affordable paid plans. Their “Build a Plan” model is most attractive, which allows you to pay as little as $1 per additional server. This is the most affordable option if you want a South Korea IP address.
- Dirt cheap
- NoSpy servers
- 24 South Korean servers (physically located in Seoul)
- No kill switch control
- Unreliable speeds
Are you looking for a budget option? CyberGhost is here to spook your day (in a good way). Not only is it cheap, but it also has an extensive network of 3,000 servers across 59 countries. It also has 24 Korean servers you can tap into, all physically located in Seoul, so you can get a South Korean IP address.
If you carry a lot of devices with you, CyberGhost has you covered as it allows up to seven simultaneous connections. The lack of a data cap also makes it an attractive option for binge-watching shows and movies as you please. Butspeeds are unreliable, especially if you’re connecting to a server farther away, like if you want to stream content from your U.S. Netflix library.
The real humdinger with this VPN is its price. If you opt for a longer plan, you can make some killer savings. CyberGhost also provides a 45-day money-back guarantee (for the longer plans). The monthly plan has a 14-day refund period, should you choose that package instead.
Can I Use a Free Korea VPN to Get a South Korean IP Address?
Would you be skeptical about eating free bibimbap from a Korean street shop? Could you do it? Yes. Could you also get food poisoning? Yes. The same goes for most free VPNs.
Using a free VPN for a South Korea IP address runs the risk of your data not being secure because free VPN providers often lack no-logs policies. Some might infect your devices with viruses no one ever wants. But if you find the right free VPN service, it may solve these challenges.
The Best Free Korean VPNs
Windscribe, ProtonVPN and TunnelBear are all great options for free VPNs. As of March 2021, TunnelBear is the only one from these that offers a free “tunnel” to South Korea. However, the server’s speed is unreliable, and with a minimal 500MB data cap on its free plan, you’re much better off with Windscribe’s “Build a Plan” option.
Conclusion: Best VPNs for South Korea
Thinking of hitting up South Korea and seeing the sights? Do yourself a favor and add a VPN to your toolkit.
My top recommendation for you is ExpressVPN. But if you’ve got a tight budget, look into NordVPN, VyprVPN, CyberGhost or even Windscribe, which offers free VPN servers in 10 countries (not including South Korea).
Regardless of your choice, browse safely, eat lots of kimchi and cross your fingers for the possibility of running into one of your K-pop idols.
Annyeong, and ‘til next time!