It’s one of the worst feelings you can have in the pit of your stomach. You wake up one morning, reach for your phone, only to find it’s not there. After tearing apart your modest officetel in search of it, you face the facts: your cell phone is gone.
What’s worse? You don’t know when it went missing, after a long day of moving about your city…of over 3 million people.
I can now say I’ve been there. And I can also say: don’t panic, because you CAN get your phone back.
For me, it was Saturday Morning in Busan. Sara and I decided to head to Geumgang Park to ride the cable car to Geumjeongsanseong Fortress and see the Fall colors. On the way up the mountain, my main phone battery died (I have 2, one that I use for taking photos mostly). I took the SD card out of it, put it in the other phone, and carried on with our afternoon. Which was fun, walking around the mountain top, seeing all of Busan from high above, exploring the trails and the fortress’ South Gate. At dusk we decided to return home. Along the way we hiked miles of mountain trail, back alleys, took a cable car, 3 subway lines, and finally a taxi.
Sometime during all of that, my phone, was no longer in my pocket. Did I lose it in the subway? Did I drop it on the trail? Was I pickpocketed? Did it fall out of the cable car? Did it drop out as I was leaving the taxi?
I had no idea.
But here’s where I started:
In Busan we headed to the Subway station where we got off.
The Subway office has a lost and found system, and the office workers were so unbelievably helpful. They did everything in their power to find my phone. They called up every transfer hub on the metro lines we took. They searched a database of their lost-and-found, where valuable items are photographed and logged in hope that their owners come looking. They even tried calling and texting my phone number. But no luck.
They gave us a phone number to call on Monday morning between 9am and 6pm for their main lost and found office.
Busan Subway Lost and Found: 051-640-7339
I asked my Korean boss to call that number, and unfortunately, it wasn’t there.
I received a suggestion to contact the police, because people in Korea are usually very good about turning in lost-valuables.
What I found, is that there is an entire Police website dedicated to lost-and-found, with its own listings for found phones.
Korean Police Lost and Found Phone Listings: https://www.lost112.go.kr/phone/phoneList.do
The website also allows you to search by area where items were found, and where they are currently being held, and you can post your own listings for lost items. Additionally there is a number to call.
That website was very helpful, but my phone (which is pretty unique in Korea) was not on the list of found phones.
Korea Post actually has a service for finding lost cell phones as well: http://www.handphone.or.kr/ph1_search_grobal.php
On to plan C.
I thought it might be in the cable car I rode on the mountain, or maybe that one of the many hikers could have found it on the trail. I found the number for Geumgang Park , and while they did not have my phone in their possession, they apparently sent someone out to LOOK for my phone! I was really touched to see the lengths that strangers would go to help me out. I never heard back from them, because it wasn’t there.
Where it was, was in the Taxi. And here’s how we found it.
If there is one lesson to take away from my plight, it’s that you should always pay for taxis with your credit/debit cards in Korea.
By sheer luck, I had used my Korean bank card to pay for our lift back home on the last leg of our trip. My coworker took my card, and called the number on the back of it. She explained in Korean what had happened. Again, I was amazed at the lengths to which people would go on my behalf. The card company found the transaction and found the cab company I used. Then, they took it upon themselves, to track down the specific cab, and the specific driver, and find HIS cellphone number, and relayed all that information back to us within the hour.
2 phonecalls and a $30 bribe later (because he denied having the phone at all until we offered cash for it) and the cab driver delivered my phone to me, at my house, with a half-charged battery.
There was another number we tried, for the Busan Independent Taxi Association: 051-500-8500 but it was ultimately no use to us.
Now I’ve seen miracles happen. I lost a cellphone in a massive city for over a day, and managed to get it back safe and sound.
Before this happens to you, I suggest installing one of the numerous “where’s my phone” apps on your device, it could prevent a lot of heartache (but of course it only works if your phone is ON in the first place). I also suggest keeping records of your phone serial numbers, and putting an “if found” contact sticker on it, to help out the honest folks who may find your stuff.
I also suggest, in the event your phone is lost or stolen, to revoke access to any accounts that you may be logged into on your device. Emails, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, ect. all have options to remotely shut down access to all devices currently signed in.
For more suggestions start here: http://www.korea4expats.com/article-busan-lost-and-found-.html
I was quite fortunate in the end, as many Taxi drivers sell lost phones at a profit, oftentimes to buyers in China who wipe them and resell them. You can read more about that here: