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Thinking of moving to South Korea? One of the first things you’ll need to know is how to open a Korean bank account.
South Korea is an increasingly popular destination for UK expats, especially those looking to teach English or work for an international company. However, differences in the language and culture can make it challenging for newcomers.
Opening a bank account in South Korea is a crucial first step that’ll help you settle in. Read on, as we’ll cover everything you need to know here in this guide.
If you’re planning to work, study or travel to South Korea, check out the Wise Multi-Currency account. With Wise, you can convert British pounds effortlessly into South Korean wons at a fair exchange rate and manage your money between the UK and South Korea – and in 50+ currencies around the world.
It varies between banks, but the documents you’re likely to need to open a bank account in South Korea are:¹
- Your passport
- Alien Registration Card (ARC - a South Korean residency card)
The ARC will have your address printed on it, but you should also bring in a copy of your address written in both Korean and English, so the bank can properly capture it.
The bank may also ask for a certificate of employment or proof of study, and your Korean phone number.
You might not need all the documents and information listed above, but it’s a good idea to have them ready just in case.
You can open a bank account in South Korea without an Alien Registration Card (ARC). Banks such as KB Kookmin Bank, for example, will let you open an account with just a passport or other ID document.²
However, unless you open a bank account with an ARC card, you might find that your new account has restrictions.¹ For example, you might not get a debit card until you provide your ARC. This means that you won’t be able to use ATMs, so will need to visit a branch to withdraw cash.
In most cases, you must visit a branch of the bank in person to open a bank account in South Korea. You’ll need to fill out an application form and hand it in along with your ID card at the bank counter.³
Bear in mind that access to an ATM card, internet access and other features may be restricted for three months.³ This can be inconvenient, but it’s a standard procedure for preventing fraud.
If you’re an existing customer with an international bank that has a presence in both the UK and South Korea, you may potentially be able to open an account online. For example, if you bank with HSBC or Standard Chartered, you could get in touch to see if they’ll help you open a Korean bank account remotely.
There are around 20 local and 35 foreign/international banks in South Korea.⁴ Let’s run through a few of the major banks that offer expat-friendly accounts and services.
To manage your money with ease between the UK and South Korea, check out Wise. With Wise Multi-Currency account, you can send and convert money between GBP and KRW at a fair exchange rate – the mid-market exchange rate.
The largest bank in South Korea, KB Kookmin Bank is headquartered in Seoul but has hundreds of branches and ATMs spread across the country. It has an English version of its website, and offers a range of personal banking services.
Expats will also be interested in the KB Welcome Service, which offers special products for foreign customers. This includes the KB Welcome Account⁵, which offers discounts on online banking and ATM fees, as well as overseas payments.
Otherwise, banking fees at KB Kookmin include the following:
- ATM withdrawals - free within service hours at KB ATMs, or up to 500 KRW/£0.31* outside of service hours. Fees could reach 1000 KRW/£0.63* when using a non-KB ATM.⁶
- Electronic transfers - up to 500 KRW/£0.31* when sending to a non-KB bank.⁷
Based in Seoul, KEB Hana Bank operates nationwide and has over 100 branches.⁸
It has a full range of products and services geared towards expats, under the umbrella of its Easy-One Foreigner Service. This includes its Easy-One Pack Deposit Account⁹, which comes with a debit card and online/mobile banking access.
You’ll need to contact the bank for a full list of fees, but one charge to know about is for transfers to other banks. This will cost 500 KRW/£0.31* per transfer¹⁰ when sending to any non Hana Bank account.
Standard Chartered Bank Korea is an international bank with its headquarters in London. This could make it a good option for UK expats wanting to start the process of applying for a Korean account before moving abroad.
It has a wide network of branches and ATMs across Korea, and a huge range of deposit and savings accounts available. As a foreign customer, it could be a good idea to book a consultation with the bank to find out about your options and choose the best account for your needs.
In terms of banking fees at Standard Chartered Korea, here’s what to expect:¹¹
- ATM withdrawal - free at SC ATMs, 900 KRW/£0.57* at non-network ATMs
- International transfers - up to 10,000 KRW/£6.30* (depending on amount sent).
Opened a Korean bank account and want to transfer money to it from the UK? You’ll need a few key details, such as the account number and the SWIFT/BIC code of the bank.¹²
Watch out for transfer fees though when you send money to a Korean bank account from abroad. This includes fees charged by correspondent banks when the SWIFT system is used to send your payment. You should also check the exchange rate, as many banks add a margin on top of the mid-market rate. This makes your transfer more expensive.
To avoid high transfer fees and get a fairer exchange rate, use Wise to send money between the UK and Korea. It could work out cheaper, quicker and much more convenient.
After reading this guide, you should be all set to open your Korean bank account. You should find it relatively straightforward, and you can get started with just your passport to verify your ID.
*1 KRW = 0.00063 GBP (16-08-2022)
- Woori Bank - Banking guide for foreign customer
- KB Kookmin Bank - Guidance for new customers
- KB Kookmin Bank - Guide for foreigners
- Statista - South Korea Banks By Total Assets
- KB Kookmin Bank - KB Welcome Package
- KB Kookmin Bank - ATM fees
- KB Kookmin Bank - Electronic transfer fees
- IFC - Hana Bank overview
- Hana Bank - Easy-One Pack
- Hana Bank - Fee/Transfer Limit
- Standard Chartered Bank Korea - fees
- Nationwide - Guidance for making international payments
Sources last checked on date: 17-Aug-2022
This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.
We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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