By Sharla Sikes
Many U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea have been using United States-based VoIP companies to keep phone costs down to stay in touch with family and friends back home. These VoIP providers issue a local phone number for friends and family members to call without paying international long-distance rates.
South Korean Internet providers said a year ago they would block Internet calls made through any company not registered under the Korean Telecommunications Business Act, according to Stars & Stripes, a U.S. Department of Defense authorized newspaper. U.S. Forces Korea Commander General Burwell Baxter Bell said the move would impact service members’ quality of life, bringing the South Korean ISPs to agree to delay enforcement for a year.
May 31 was reported to be the final day the U.S military members could make calls using the U.S. VoIP providers, but the plan is â€œon holdâ€ for a few more weeks, until June 21. The delay comes as officials move to sign a contract for Internet services for the U.S. military members in South Korea.
LG Dacom, the Internet provider contracted by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, said it has no written contract and canâ€™t offer VoIP until it does. LG DACOM spokeswoman Huh Mie-hea said the company plans to offer an unlimited VoIP calling plan for $34.99 per month plus a $10 monthly fee for phone rental, and customers must also use the companyâ€™s $39.95 per month Internet service. The service wonâ€™t include a United States phone numberâ€”one of the most attractive features of the U.S. VoIP services. Huh said those using LG Dacomâ€™s plan from the States to South Korea will be charged at international rates because it is illegal for the South Korean company to issue U.S. phone numbers. Additionally, LG Dacomâ€™s VoIP service will only be available to some military members living on base; those living off base will have to find other services.
Unfortunately, both on- and off-base located U.S. military members in South Korea may have to adjust to the higher cost and lower service quality offered to them through LG Dacom, since the company insists it is prohibited from assigning United States phone numbers by South Korean law.
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