Many of the governments in Asia are repressive. According to the Freedom on the Net 2017 report by Freedom House, 20 of the 30 most repressive governments in terms of internet access are Asian nations. Armenia and Japan are the only two Asian countries in the top 20 nations with freedom of internet access.
It, therefore, goes without saying that accessing your favorite sites is difficult in many Asian countries. In the majority of these places, including South Korea, social networks, news outlets, and video streaming sites are either heavily censored or blocked.
To bypass these government restrictions, you need to make it seem like you’re connecting to a site that’s not on the list of banned websites. You can also access blocked apps and websites through servers in other countries even if the local ISP restricts overseas internet access. To achieve this, you need a VPN to make it seem like you’re in a different location and to also mask the traffic between your device and the VPN server.
To determine the best VPNs for South Korea, we considered the following criteria.
- A large global server network
- Top speeds in Asia
- Compatibility across device platforms
- Powerful encryption
Based on these considerations, the following are our top recommended VPNs for South Korea in 2018.
ExpressVPN is likely the best VPN globally and it’s a good option for using in South Korea. It has a vast server network spanning 94 countries including South Korea, Japan, Turkey, Indonesia, Macau, and Hong Kong. This VPN is among the few that work well in South Korea. One of the main advantages is its ability to avoid detection, which makes it perfect for accessing video streaming and social media sites.
The powerful technology used by the service allows it to deftly evade highly strict proxy detection systems. As far as video streaming is concerned, Netflix is among the most difficult sites to access. ExpressVPN can unblock Netflix US and Netflix Canada among others. The service is risk-free as all its subscriptions come with a 30-day no-hassle money-back guarantee. Native apps of the VPN are available for MacOS, Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, Kindle Fire tablets, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Stick, and select Wi-Fi routers.
NordVPN doesn’t have servers in as many countries as ExpressVPN. Nonetheless, it has twice as many servers in its global server network and is just as effective in eluding detection systems. Moreover, it comes at a lower price tag. Subscriptions come with a 30-day no-hassle money-back guarantee that allows you to test out all the provider’s features before you fully commit.
The provider’s server locations in Asia include South Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. This vast network comes in handy when you run into restricted services when you travel out of your country.
NordVPN has no qualms with its subscribers using P2P networks to obtain content and even has servers dedicated for this purpose. After choosing a server through which to connect, you can use any of the service’s additional security features, which include a double-hop connection that routes your data through two VPNs thereby encrypting it twice.
This provider is based in the US, a fact that might not sit well with some prospective users because copyright lawyers and the NSA are well-known for putting a lot of pressure on VPN providers in the US, compelling them to share customer information. However, IPVanish doesn’t keep records of customer logs and connection activity, meaning that no information about you can be obtained forcefully from the provider.
IPVanish has a server network spanning 60 countries and its servers in the US are particularly powerful. You can, therefore, enjoy fast speeds with this provider especially if you want to access video streaming services and online games in the US. The service has VPN servers in 10 countries in Asia, including South Korea, India, Turkey, Malaysia, Japan, and China.
With IPVanish, you can simultaneously connect up to five devices. Upon sign-up, you get a 7-day money-back guarantee. The provider has apps for MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android and Amazon Fire devices. Manual installation can be done on various routers.
This VPN service is Sweden-based and is known for its enthusiasm for offering its customers top-quality torrenting capabilities. It has servers in 56 countries, 12 of which are in Asia. The countries in Asia include South Korea, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Turkey, and Indonesia. PrivateVPN grants you access to Netflix US.
Following its great interest in torrenting, the provider is keen on not keeping any records of customers’ traffic logs and online activity. PrivateVPN users are allowed up to six simultaneous device connections so that you can protect as many of your devices as possible.
Despite the provider being based in Sweden, all the service representatives on its customer support team speak excellent English, meaning you can get assistance via the live chat support service in case you run into any problems. Technicians at the company can resolve issues remotely in the event that the instructions prove too technical for you.
Custom apps for the VPN are available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire devices and select routers. You get a 30-day money-back guarantee with all the subscriptions.
CyberGhost is present in 57 countries and has 1290 servers in total. A number of these servers are located in 10 countries in Asia, including South Korea, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Japan among others. This provider is among the few with servers in Pakistan, meaning you can access Pakistani video services, apps, and sites if you work or live in another part of Asia.
The VPN has a well-designed app that is user-friendly no matter what screen you’re using it on. As soon as you as you launch the app, you select the activity for which you want to use the VPN and the app configures itself accordingly. One of the uses you can select is torrenting, in which case the service connects your device with servers dedicated to anonymous P2P file sharing.
You also get many additional security features, including a feature that immunizes your device against random attacks. With this service, you can connect up to five devices simultaneously, regardless of whether you’re using an Android, iOS, MacOS or Windows device.
CyberGhost allows its customers to make payments using Bitcoin. This adds a layer of anonymity. When you make payments through third-party companies such as Visa and MasterCard, your identity can be linked with your account number in a VPN provider’s system. However, when you use Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency, your payments are untraceable.
This VPN has apps for MacOS, Windows, iOS, and Android. Furthermore, you can manually configure it onto Linux and some routers.
Avoid using free VPNs in South Korea
Tempting as it may be, don’t use free VPN services in South Korea. Even though there are some great free VPNs out there, the vast majority of them offered extremely limited services. One of the most important considerations to make when looking for a good VPN in South Korea is powerful encryption, something most free VPN services cannot offer.
If you have to use free VPN services, go for the trial versions of well-established providers. Just keep in mind that most of these trials will usually have limitations such as data usage caps. Video streaming, torrenting and online gaming services use up these data allowances extremely fast.
Restrictions on the internet in South Korea and Asia in General
Freedom on the internet varies from one country to another. However, nations in Asia have the some of the strictest controls in the world. According to the 2017 Freedom House report, China is the least free, with Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Pakistan and Uzbekistan trailing close behind.
As bad as China may be, North Korea is possibly worse. So unfavorable are the conditions there that Freedom House was unable to monitor the internet restrictions in the country. Even countries in Asia that are considered relatively liberal, like the UAE and Bahrain, are still in the Freedom House list of countries that are restrictive.
Among the most restricted online services are search engines. As is the case elsewhere, users in Asian countries are redirected to the version of Google for the countries, and it is usually highly restricted with regard to the results it displays. As a result, other Google brands such as Gmail, Google Drive, and YouTube are affected.
Users trying to access social networks such as Facebook and Twitter face the same restrictions, as do those attempting to access video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and others.
In some Asian countries, accessing the above online services can result in serious legal problems. All this is on top of the fact that many popular streaming services, including Netflix and BBC iPlayer, impose geo-restrictions for their own reasons, which have to do with the licensing agreements they have with content creators.
Likewise, countries in Asia take a hard stance against dating and pornography sites. Moreover, seeing as most Middle East countries are autocracies, websites promoting political dissent are banned. Gambling sites are also banned in Bangladesh and India among other South Asian countries. In South Korea, you can be jailed for three years for online gambling.
Middle Eastern countries as well as Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan have completely banned websites that cover issues on homosexuality and even more prohibit the use of dating sites (Indonesia, India, Myanmar, Pakistan and, of course, China). Many countries in Asia strongly also punish religious controversy and mete out harsh penalties to those who even make light of the main religion in the country.
That is not to say that the situation in Asia is universally dismal. One of the freest internet systems in the world is found in Japan, which was ranked number seven by Freedom House. Armenia is ranked number 17. Hong Kong also manages to maintain general freedoms despite being under the rule of China.
In many Asian countries, including South Korea, the legal landscape with regard to internet access has become a minefield. The line between what is deemed legal or illegal constantly shifts, often deliberately, in order for governments to detain citizens on a whim even if they access sites that had not been blacklisted.
In general, you’re better off hiding your identity and always using a VPN when accessing the internet in South Korea and other countries in Asia. The services we have recommended in this article will effectively conceal your identity and help you avoid being prosecuted for unintentionally committing a crime.
If you relocate to South Korea from other continents, you’ll want to continue accessing your favorite online services, such as video streaming sites or online gaming services. The majority of these services may not be available in South Korea. However, the VPNs listed here will enable you to access the services.