Journalist’s guide to recording calls on your phone in Korea


I wrote this short guide for my colleagues at the BBC Korean service but it just came to my mind that it would be useful for those who works in Korea as well so I share it with some amendment. Enjoy!


As the COVID-19 crisis goes on with no end in sight, we may have to consider working in remote longer than we initially expected.

Among the pros and cons of working in remote, not being able to use studio facilities is one of the serious limitations. Especially when you have to record phone calls for output.

Recording phone calls is important for many reasons. In our case, it’s mainly for radio output and clearer quotes in text output.


Our studio has a Telephone Balance Unit connected to a landline telephone, which directs signals from the telephone unit to the mixer so we can record phone calls in their pristine condition.

The phone calls should be made from this studio telephone unit and we can’t use it when working remotely.

Unlike in the UK, recording calls by the parties involved is not illegal in Korea even without consent.

Solutions and Non-solutions

The most straightforward solution is to use Android phones built for Korean market.

Major Korean mobile phone manufacturers including Samsung and LG allow the Korean version of their handsets record phone calls while their international versions can’t in compliance of local markets’ law.

Manufacturer’s stock phone dialer app offers a recording feature which works perfectly at any moment.

iPhone users including Apple fanboys like me should look into other options:

  1. The most economical solution would be rooting, which means hacking the deepest authority in the iOS and then granting the user the access to its tightly-sealed microphones and speakers.

    If succeeded, it costs nothing but your time. However, rooting is known to compromise iOS’s security and it’s more and more getting harder as iOS gets new updates. Not recommended to average users.
  2. There are several iPhone call recorders, in both software and hardware format. I’ve never seen any working iPhone call recording apps.

    Some hardware call recorders flash their Bluetooth/lightning connectivity features which in theory would come in handy. Users, however, repeatedly have shown their frustrations over their flaky operations. Not worth your money.

My recommendation for non-Android users

The option I use looks classic if not archaic. But it works and it works even when you are talking via apps other than conventional voice call feature, i.e., WhatsApp or KakaoTalk, etc.

Even Korean Android phones can’t record calls on WhatsApp or KakaoTalk.

Why this option works is very straightforward: it places microphone on your ears and then let you hold your phone on it and listen through.

Simple and straightforward.

What you need:

  1. In-ear pick-up microphone: I recommend Olympus TP-8 ($15) but there is a much cheaper one ($6) on Naver.
  2. Any working recorder: if you don’t have one, I recommend Sony product, the price of which varies from $50 to $100

When used properly, it guarantees a great sound quality.


  • Make sure that your recorder supports your microphone. Most dedicated recorders will do fine but if you are to record calls with your another smartphone, probably you will need a TRRS adapter. Read: Understanding TRRS and Audio Jacks
  • Try not to put your phone too close to the microphone because it could make some scrubbing noise.
  • It’s always a good idea to raise the volume of the phone to max.
  • Begin recording well before you actually start talking on the phone. You will get some basic footprints of the ambient noise which can be later de-noised by any decent sound editor.

Leave a Reply