Story by: Paul Sharkie, Photos by: Nicholas Stonehouse
A couple of months ago I wrote about the problems many banking customers face when trying to manage their accounts from abroad. My conclusion, regular readers might recall, was that the best option for those who plan to leave Korea permanently is to simply close all their accounts before departing.
Despite excellent products and services (often more competitive and rewarding than in other nations), rigorous legislation ultimately means that should you forget your passwords, a branch visit — in Korea — will be required to reset them. No exceptions. Furthermore, cards cannot be delivered abroad should you require a new one. Whether you’re out of the country temporarily or permanently, if you find yourself in a panic-stricken situation you will need to get in touch with your bank; yet many people simply do not know how.
While some banks have better English infrastructure than others, all institutions offer ways to get in touch. Here’s how you can do it:
Who are they? Shinhan Bank (신한은행) is the largest subsidiary of the Shinhan Financial Group and is headquartered in Seoul. Although not the largest bank in Korea, it is the most profitable and has recently been recognized as the best domestic and private banking institution in the country. Industry publication The Banker recently ranked Shinhan as the No. 1 bank in Korea and 43rd best bank globally.
Getting in touch Shinhan’s Foreign Language Call Center can be reached at 1577-8380 on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Shinhan Card’s Foreign Language Call Center is available at 1544-7333 on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., though someone will be able to help you around the clock if your card is lost or stolen. If you happen to be abroad, call +82-2-3449-8380 on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. At all phone numbers, press 1 for English.
Kookmin Bank (KB)
Who are they? Kookmin Bank (국민은행) is one of the largest banks in Korea in terms of both asset value and market capitalization. They also have the largest branch presence on the peninsula.
Getting in touch Domestically, call 1599-4477, and internationally, call +82-2-6300-9999.
Tip Press 1 and then 0. Opening hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK)
Who are they? Kiup Bank (기업은행), otherwise known as the Industrial Bank of Korea, was established in 1961 and is owned by the Korean government. For those who are interested, the Seoul-based institution recently appointed Korea’s first female bank CEO.
Getting in touch IBK’s website cites two local numbers: 1566-2566 and 1588-2588. When calling from overseas, you should try +82-31-888-8000. Either way, you need to dial 571 for English, and if you want to speak to someone in person you can reach their tellers between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Who are they? The Hana Financial Group is another one of Korea’s financial giants whose primary banking subsidiary, Hana Bank (하나은행), was converted into a commercial bank in 1991. It has enjoyed continuous expansion since then, with its most recent acquisition being Korea Exchange Bank (KEB).
Getting in touch The Hana Bank Customer Center can be reached at 1599-1111 or +82-42-520-2500 if calling from abroad, and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Tip: You will have to wait a short while for an English introduction, so press 8 then 1, and if you want to speak to a representative, press 0).
Korea Exchange Bank (KEB)
Who are they? Korea Exchange Bank (외환은행) is a specialized foreign exchange bank headquartered in Seoul. By asset size, they are the fifth largest bank in Korea, and they also happen to be the largest foreign exchange bank in the country, controlling 40 percent of the exchange market.
Getting in touch KEB’s general Expat Banking call center is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you are calling locally, use 1544-3000, or +82-2-1544-3000 if calling from abroad.
Tip Press 8 and then 8 again for services in English. For card-related issues, you may call 1544-3500 (+82-1544-8380) around the clock, which includes instances where you have to report your card as lost or stolen (press 1).
Who are they? Nonghyup Bank (농협은행) is an agricultural bank company that is owned by the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (NACF). Like the others on this list, their headquarters are in Seoul.
Getting in touch From inside the country, call 1588-2100. They are open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Again, if you want to skip the long Korean introduction, press 730 and then 1.
Who are they? Another one of Korea’s government-owned banking giants, Woori Bank (우리은행) has proven to be a very popular bank with expats.
Getting in touch Call 1599-2288 on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and press 1 for English.
Did you know?
1. If you ever have trouble using your bank’s website or find yourself being redirected to a Korean page, try using Internet Explorer; many Korean websites only function on this browser. While hard to stomach at first, it’s not that bad and will save you a lot of time testing other browsers.
2. Given the devotion to Internet Explorer in Korea, online banking services for MacBook users were previously non-existent. Today, however, two banks in Korea (Shinhan Bank and KEB) offer a Mac banking service in English, which involves downloading some rather fancy software that you can pin to your dock.