South Korea Says No More Vonage For US Soldiers?

from the say-what? dept

John has pointed us to a fairly confusing article in the U.S. military publications Stars & Stripes, claiming that U.S. military personnel in South Korea can no longer sign up for U.S.-based VoIP service plans, and will be required to sign up for equivalent service from South Korean providers. The details, however, are extremely unclear. It seems to suggest that as long as you registered before last Thursday, you could keep making calls — though, they probably mean that you could only make calls until last Thursday (at least that’s how a different report characterizes the ban). It’s also not at all clear how South Korea will go about blocking these “unauthorized” US VoIP providers from working in the country (and, if the US VoIP providers were smart, they’d start adding some trickery to make it a lot harder to figure out that their packets were VoIP related). All in all, though, this seems like a protectionist tactic to pump up local Korean VoIP firms. So much for free trade, huh?

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Comments on “South Korea Says No More Vonage For US Soldiers?”

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Wolf says:

How and Why

Here’s what’s going on (I’m a soldier stationed in S. Korea):

Certain S. Korean phone companies have contracts with the U.S. bases here in S. Korea. They provide phone, internet, and in some cases, TV services to service men and women who reside on the bases.

This is of course, a large cash cow for them, esp. in the area of phone calls, because they can charge those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, for making phone calls back to the states.

Soldiers want to be able to call home to their families and friends. Since soldiers are human, they tend to choose the most efficient and cost effective means available and are normally only willing to pay more for a service if it provides a perceived or needed benefit, or better quality.

S. Korean companies have been slow to jump on the VOIP bandwagon and are just now realizing how much money they have been losing to US Based VOIP, so now they are forcing the military’s hand here.

Additionally, the S. Korean companies are charging 2x the price for making VOIP calls back to the states that US based VOIP services provide, and they don’t provide a US based local number for families to call. This is of course, ridiculous.

GEN Bell should tell the S. Korean VOIP providers (which are actually full fledged phone companies here who are losing money to VOIP in the states because most soldiers are no longer using normal land base phone lines and US based VOIP is cheaper) to go get bent and kick them off the bases. Then he should tell the S. Koreans that he is going to withdraw all troops from S. Korea. He’s threatened it before and gotten what he wants. He should do it again.

S. Korean phone companies and VOIP service providers are trying to hold the U.S. service men and women hostage. They don’t care about providing a service – they just want the allmighty American dollar – and they don’t care how they go about getting it as long as it makes them money.

If this happened in the states (say AT&T tried to get legislation passed in GA so that they were the only authorized company to provide long distance) there would be riots and people would be getting fired and legislators would find themselves being impeached or voted out of office!

Eric says:

Re: How and Why

I am a US solider going to korea in the next month. I have one question but thanks for clearing all that up for me. I think your comment had more information in it than the whole story did. Thank you again for clearing that up for me.
My question is.. well i got a couple.
1) what is the best way to get a phone service over there?
2) What are the prices like over there.
3) What would/could happen if I go over there with a magic jack or vonage? would it still work?
Thanks again for clearing all that up. You’ve helped alot already

nick says:

Re: vonage in south kroea

very simple fix for this problem
email me and ill tell you the answer, because i dont want these money hungry peoples knowing, and ill verify who you are just in case your the enemy……

easy for you troops just use your military email… the answer is so simple it hurts

Dennis Fye says:

Re: Re: vonage in south kroea

Im on my way back to Korea in August I remember dealing with this vonage problem when I was there in 2006 I figured they would have this shit worked out by now. Im very curious what your work around is for this because I am thinking about getting vonage again but I dont want to get stuck in a contract if it isnt going to work. Thanks


Flatfoot says:


Inmates in jails across the nation have been unable to call their parents who use VOIP or cell phones as residence lines. Inmates must either call collect to a POTS number at huge charges or pay the charges themselves. Usually about 65+ cents for the connect and huge fees thereafter. Why? Because the “private” phone providers kickback to the jails some of the excess charges.

mp says:


Inmates in jails should not expect to have every freedom available to people who did not commit crimes. Incarceration by definition results in a loss of freedom. However, in this case, I believe the requirement on using POTS is so that the authorities can monitor the calls easily. Regardless, what an absurd leap of logic to compare soldiers sent at the behest of the national command to less than ideal conditions and the delinquent who are responsible for their own misfortune.

SailorRipley says:

Re: Re: VOIP

As I am sure most people know, inmates in jails (unless you are a celeb) have very little freedom(s) available…surely the list of taken away freedoms should include the freedom to be extorted…

Besides, we all know inmates don’t make any or very little money, so whether they call collect or pay the charges themselves (with money from loved ones), it’s ultimately their loved ones, who quite likely did not commit crimes who have to pay for it.

PS: the effort required to monitor the calls differs very little between the two methods. How can you be so naive to believe/think that might be the reason, and not the kickback the jails are getting???

Bdragun says:


As sad as it is,when in Rome,use the Roman ammenities.The USA does not own the world.In order to overcome poverty and reduce aid given by the USA,S Korea and other countries need the dollars to afford so.To be held back in technology and or agriculture is a mistake the USA has been making for years with there world domain ideas.Poor countries remain poor because of this and the USA supports their economies so that they stay that way.The USA should fully support these countries economic growth so they are not so dependant on the USA,which will relieve pressures on the foriegn aid budget.Make sense to you?

mp says:


Once again, an absurd comparison. S. Korea is a rich country. American blood during the Korean war and the continued presence of thousands of “human tripwires” and significant US taxpayer expense ensures that the ROK will continue to be rich while those in the “D”PRK suffer mass starvation every year. Indeed, if the ROK does not want want American troops in Korea, they will go home. The consequence of this action is left as an exercise for the reader.

Joshua Satrape says:


You mention that Korea needs the money from us soldiers stationed here in Korea. Did you realize that South Korea has the 11th largest economy in the world?! They aren’t a poor country, so your argument is flawed there. I appologize if this is coming across as rude, but I’ve been living here in Korea for 5 months now, and voip is the only affordable method I have for contacting people.

Matthew says:

If you don't like it, get out of there.

Hey, you’re in a foreign country making use of their infrastructure, power, water, and everything else. They decide on the law in their own country. If you don’t like it, move out. If it is our own country we have cause to complain and every right to raise merry hell about it.

I’d like to see how these very same people would answer to Antigua re: the gambling dispute, where the US is very clearly in the wrong and yet insists on screwing every other country and tossing WTO agreements to hell when it doesn’t suit them.

Jim says:

Re: If you don't like it, get out of there.

If the Americans troops left, the South would be invaded the next day! You must be a North korean, or you are nuts. Our G.I.’s using your water, and infrastucture. There is a one sided Quid Pro Quo, going on there, our tropps, means that if you are in the south, you have freedom, unless you like the mighty midget from the North! The only person that would request to get stationed there, probaly has a propencity for Asian Chicks.

oswalde2000 (profile) says:

Re: Re: If you don't like it, get out of there.

you are 100% right. ask any soldier stationed here and they’ll tell you. this is the last place everyone wants to be stationed at. south korean have taken advantage of the soldiers for so long. their cab drivers will rip you off,then you get to base and people the PX have contracted will also get you.they are not helping us to help them

Zeked says:

Re: If you don't like it, get out of there.

Actually the individual service members don’t use any of the host country’s facilities if they live on base, the power is bought by the base, the water is bought, used, cleaned and then returned in perfectly usable status. The great majority does not live off base, and all of the base raods and such are maintained by the base, or contracted out to the locals to maintain by the government, so We already do support the local community, and don’t force ourselves on them.

To force these service men and women to use the local infrastructure, just because they can’t compete is ridiculous. It’s a global market, not a positional one. I personally will be writing my congressman about this.

Dawn says:

Re: If you don't like it, get out of there.

Im no lawyer, but Im pretty certain that the service members in Korea don’t want to be there and don’t simply have the option of moving out as you suggest. Most of the service members are devasted when they find out they are going to Korea for a year alone. I cried for two days after I found out, we had already done the year remote to Korea a few years ago, and I wasnt ready to do it again. My husband just shipped out to korea yesterday and now I am really worried about how we are going to pay bills both there and at home, it is like running two households and we arent getting paid enough for that. I had been assured that at least calling would be cheap, because of vonage, but now I see that that might not happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: If you don't like it, get out of there.

Well obviously you didnt have to stay a year or 2 away from your family and friends and the only way you could talk is vonage, as for the comment “get out” or “move out”… its not a f*cking option for some of us, think before you post this ridiculous types of comments.

Cole says:

Re: If you don't like it, get out of there.

You must be like most of our congress. Never served a day in the military. The VOIP is only blocked on the US installations. Koreans who have family in the US and live off post all have vonage. So, the Law is only applying to people who live on the installations. If you make a law for no foreign VOIP, then it should apply to all; not just US installations. And for your knowledge soldierless. 75% of the water plants in Korea were built from US specs, and by US engineers..Next time just shut your d… mouth

motrin22 says:


Well F*ck that, the reason the troops are there is to protect them, why the hell should they be forced to use South Korean VOIP? The fact that there is an American Base there means that the US is already supporting the locl economy, just because the South Korean telephone companies were late on the VOIP bandwagon,our troops shouldnt have to pay for their mistakes.

glitch says:

#6 and #7

#6…here is no comparsion between soldiers in service to our country and criminals who broke laws…nuf said ??

#7…the USA doen not own the world. But why is it the responsibilty for the USA to support anyone outside the USA..just because why ?? Your last senetncs is a waste.

I believe the USA should start cutting back on the “world domination” and do more to increase the standard of living within the USA. Instead of supporting, and being accused of trying to “dominate” the world, other activities should be undertaken to redus the USA depending on foreign businesses, most notably, Mid East Oil and Far Est electronics.

chris (profile) says:

Re: #6 and #7

#6…here is no comparsion between soldiers in service to our country and criminals who broke laws…nuf said ??

read the UCMJ or the army code of conduct some time. convicted criminals have way more rights than soldiers do.

telephone companies in the USA, germany. korea and presumably every place else the US occupies have been screwing soldiers for years. it was that way when i was in the army in the 90’s and it will be that way 5 generations from now.

John says:

#8 Matthew — You must be a North Korean, or you are nuts!If the Americans troops left, the South would be invaded the next day! Our G.I.’s using your water, and infrastructure. There is a one sided Quid Pro Quo, going on there, our troops, means that if you are in the south, you have freedom, unless you like the mighty midget from the North! The only person that would request to get stationed there, probably has a propensity for Asian Chicks.

Most people in the service know that, if they have a friend that is a base operator, can get them a call home for free.

Wolf says:

Re: Re:

“Most people in the service know that, if they have a friend that is a base operator, can get them a call home for free.”

Are you stupid? What are GI’s supposed to do – there are more than 30000 US troops stationed here in S. Korea. All 30000 are supposed to make “friends” with the few (about 10 or so per base) operators there?

Ha. Get real. Fact is this: We are allowed ONE 10 minute call home on the governement dime a week – ONE. For 10 Minutes.

VOIP is a cheap alternative, and if you are paying for UNLIMITED bandwidth for your computer, and want to use a VOIP service in the US, you should be able to use it, ESP. since it is CHEAPER than the crappy service the S. Korean’s have ATM, provides better service, and also ALLLOWS families at HOME to CALL their LOVED ONES HERE for FREE if the servicemember has a local VOIP number!

S. Korean VOIP server providers are simply trying to gouge money out of the troops, because they are ALSO the same providers for POTS service, and they are LOSING money because most soldiers no longer sign up for POTS at ALL.

Why should service members be force to use a service that doesn’t give them what they need?

For those of you who think that we are over here and should be going along with the ROK: We are over here because they WANT us here. We are a MAJOR factor in their economy. We provide HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of US Dollars to the ROK in terms of what we buy while we are here. Many businesses that cater to the US service member would fold if we left. The ROK government knows that. And they DON’T WANT us to leave!

The current sitting president was elected in 2003 on the platform that he would force the US to reduce the number of Soldiers stationed here down to about 10000. That hasn’t happened, because once he got in office, he realized just how much impact the US has on HIS country’s economy.

If the S. Korean VOIP services were able to provide the same services at a fair price, I wouldn’t really care, but in this case, they can’t, they don’t, and they won’t, and they are trying to FORCE the US Service members to pay 2x the average rate for US Based VOIP just because they are in a position to try to do that. As I said, GEN Bell needs to grow some balls and tell them to kiss off.


steve says:

reply to all y'all folks

anyone ever stop to consider the technical side of things here? american voip companies can and should make it like herding cats to ban their packets. Besides, most people in the service know that if they have a friend that is a base operator, can get them a call home for free. That is true. A good friend used to be an AF base operator and told me about that years ago. Besides, I GOT NEWS FOR Y’ALL. NOONE LIKES US ANYWAY. DOES THIS SURPRISE YOU? Nit-picky stuff like this goes on everyday. And no it won’t stop. And yes, I dig asian chicks…..

Onionsoup3 says:


I understand that this ban applies to service members living on post, inside military confinements, however, does this stifling of the service work outside on the local economy as well? I have heard of people continuing to sign up for Vonage (who live outside in apartments, etc.) after the infamous cut-off date and still being able to make and receive calls as normal.

Onionsoup3 says:


Well, since last (above) post, I have learned from others that Vonage will remain working and what people do is have someone in the states send them the setup they purchased and once here, in Korea, all you do is set it up and run as normal. That’s all there’s to it. I really don’t know how Korea can stop Vonage from working this way.

slash469 says:

Re: Service

It has finally happened. Vonage service at Osan and Kunsan Air Base has been blocked. I just found out about it last night but I was told that it started on Friday. I have heard that a large group of people are going to try and fight this but I would think they will probably lose that battle. The military doesn’t have the balls to stand up to the contracted service providers. I don’t understand what the problem is. We are already paying for the internet service which means they are not losing money. The ISP, LG Dacom, is trying to force us to use their products and services because they are greedy. I am guessing that it won’t be long before they try to block Windows Live and Yahoo Messenger. I have seen a few companies that say they can provide services that will allow you to use a virtual private network to bypass the block and use Vonage. Does anyone know if this is true? If it does work I would be more than happy to pay them instead of LG Dacom.

Mindy Franks says:

Way to boost morale...

My entire tour in Korea was a joke. All we did was work our asses off during the day to support the mission and get drunk all night off of soju and whatever else “mama” was selling. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps troops emotionally connected to their families is a by making and receiving those phone calls from home. How easy it is to pick up the phone to call and straigten out an issue at home or for your kid to dial your number to tell you about their day. No phone service= lower morale. No wonder people cheat on their spouses and become alcoholics on their tour in Korea. General Bell needs to grow a pair and start fighting for the rights of his troops. I separated from the military after my Korean tour and I’m happy to say that I can stay out past curfew and can shop at a store without someone trying to rip me off. I can drive my car…don’t need taxi rides from hell anymore. Korea sucks as it is, this is only going to make things worste.

Insydedan says:

I'm still on

Anyone know of a way around this? Our building is still on (maybe they missed us?) Just wondering so I can be ready for when they cut us off.

I also don’t know if anyone else has mentioned this but in order for you to get the “same” service though the horrible south koreans you would be paying 2x vonages price. On top of that you will have to buy (maybe rent) their voip hardware.



Those of you that think this is right, why don’t you go to Korea and defend THEIR people while your family stays behind. My husband is not in Korea because he wants to be, he is there because the Koreans want us there. His vonage was cut off yesterday and I now have 2 crying children because the can’t call their daddy. There has got to be a way around this! If anyone finds a way please let me know… also my husband does not even have a computer in his room, he was paying for the internet just for the vonage so they were already getting our money!

Anonymous Coward says:


All they need is for you to bring in a copy of when you started service…like before june of 2007. So unless you are really honest…scan a copy and change the date. i did it today (Osan) and took it to LG Dacom and I can use the phone. Hopefully this works for you. Mine has been off this morning and i flipped out!

Gina McLeod says:

Vonage Blocked in S.Korea

I am currently stationed in S.Korea, and I think its a violation of our rights. Vonage is a morale booster, especially if you have children. They send me over to this hole and the easiest and cheapest way to communicate to my family is with my vonage. The deal they offer costs more, plus its still an international number, which means me and my family are paying double. You would think the government wouldn’t give in to their communistic ways, but nothing is being done to them or to help us. Majority of the personnel have Vonage paid directly out of their accounts, which causes more issues. Is there any way someone can assist, or provide help to get around the KOREANS plot.

Blair says:

Response to Vonage in Korea

I am stationed here in South Korea, and yes they cut the Vonage use about a month after I had arrived. The main reason why they cut this is because companies like Magic Jack nad Vonage don’t give them a piece of their earnings as a part of a deal the LG Dacom people were trying to work up to get more money out of Americans. Forget the time we spend over here…alone. This is the last remote tour besides Iraq, and we come over here for a year, sometimes two, maybe more, to help defend these people from war, and I can’t even have constant communication without paying 100 dollars a month for it. They are being ridiculous. First of all, we have to pay them for internet usage anyway, so its not like they are being swindled out of any money. We provide our own supplies(telephone, cords, etc). But yet, the friendly folks at LG Dacom can’t cut me a break and at least let me have some money in my pocket. For standard internet and phone service, it seriously costs 100 dollars a month, or you buy phone cards, or use “morale” calls, which only last about 15 minutes, which also need phone cards that the first sergeants supply. I am an E-3, which means, I really don’t make that much money, and every penny I can save matters, so just imagine for those Airman under me.

When they issued the base-wide e-mail saying that Vonage would be cut, most people ran out to go get Magic Jack, which is one the best things I have ever purchased. Yesterday I called LG Dacom to come disconnect my phone service for me, which I thought would be a simple task. A man came to disconnect it for me, but he gave me hell in the process. He first asked me why I wanted to disconnect service, in which I told him, I just dont want the phone anymore. It’s too expensive, and my family can’t even call me. Plus the phone they issued me was broken anyway, so I hadn’t used it in like a month. He was telling me he could fix the phone. I said no. Then he was asking how would I use the phone, I said I have phone access, just disconnect the phone. They he saw the Magic Jack and told me that this is illegal and that he would disconnect my internet service if I was caught using it. I said fine just to get him to leave the room and take his equipment with him. But he was so nasty to me about stopping service, that I am considering disconnecting the internet as well and finding alternative means. We spend enough of our money here, we employ them in every Shop on base, and we work with the ROKAF on a daily basis, but how the customer relations are so bad, I have no clue. But I still have my Magic Jack!

Wife to Airforce Man says:

Magic Jack

My husband’s magicjack was just cut off yesterday. He contacted magicjack they told him they were going to be working on a way to unblock the MJ’s in Korea. They said most of their members are located in Korea and other over seas areas. We are hoping that they fix this issue soon. As for now we are talking on GSC chat( which is free, but is nothing like using a telephone. You can only use a computer mic to speak on it, but it’s better than nothing.

AmericanoINkorea says:

HMmm..why didn't I think of that?

We should just get out? That’s some dang good advice! Why didn’t I think of that? lol..I’m packin my bags tonight and leaving tomorrow!!

You know someone is speaking ignorantly when they forget that WE gave the freedom of leaving when we please up when we pledged to defend our nation. I’m still trying to figure out the similarities to prisioners?? I volunteered to be here, I don’t know many prisioner volunteers.

And to who ever said that we are not a huge part of South Korean’s economy hasn’t seen my closet full of purses and shoes!!

But one note, to be fair, we are visitors over here and it is a Korean law so just like any foriegner in America would have to follow American law, we should accept the culture and ways of the Koreans while we are here.

oswalde2000 (profile) says:

This is very true. LG Dacom at the PX charges so much to provide a landland for you. And you have to pay extra to get a State side number or else you’ll be making international calls from the number they give you. I bought magicjack and was not able to use it. I heard you can use it outside post. So this is something they are doing only to soldiers that lives on base. Because you are not allowed to purchase any other service than what is at the PX. The DoD or DA needs to sign a contract with people that’ll help soldiers and not rip us off. Its same with the cell phone service the provide at the PX. Most soldiers prefer buying off post because it’s better service and more options to choose from. If the Koreans cannot allow us to use these VOIPs to make connections with our families back home, then it’s about time we let them fight their own war

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