Even native Koreans are uncertain about the idea of joining the heavy traffic and complicated roads of Korea. However, being able to drive is hugely useful and can an easy commute, especially outside of Seoul. If you’re wondering how to get your driving license in Korea, look no further. Read on for all the rules, regulations and requirements to get you ready for the road!
Although most locals and mainly foreigners may be uncertain about the idea of joining the heavy traffic and pedestrians with a vehicle, while some may find it adventurous. To drive a motorized vehicles in Korea the legal age of getting a driving license is 18 years old.
International Driving Permits
The most common way in which foreigners are able to drive in Korea is with an international driving permit (IDP). The IDP is a document that allows its holders to drive private vehicles in any country that recognizes IDPs, such as Korea.
However, an IDP will only permit you to drive for a certain period of time, usually a year. Additionally, an IDP may prevent you from purchasing cars, car insurance, as well as long-term rent and leases. Therefore, if you’re settling in Korea, you may want a more permanent and reliable way of driving. For that, you may consider obtaining a Korean driving license.
Trading in Your Foreign Driving License
Of course, obtaining a driver’s license in Korea is easiest when you have a valid driver’s license from your home country. Essentially, you can exchange your license, without the need for another test. Furthermore, although they take your original license away, you can easily reclaim it when you leave Korea.
The Documents You’ll Need
- Original Driver’s License
- Alien Registration Card
- 3x Passport-style Photos
- Immigration History Document (from birth to date)
- Application Fee*
** Fee varies depending on country of origin
Your immigration and passport photo documents must be notarized by an official notary from your home country. As of 2013, the USA and UK do not provide notary services in Korea. Therefore, if you are from these countries, it would be best to prepare these documents before you come to Korea.
Next, you’ll need to undergo a medical assessment, in order to be deemed fit and well for driving. You should note that the assessment and the health certificate both incur fees:
- Medical Assessment – 5,000 KRW
- Health Certificate – 6,000 KRW
- Processing Fee – 7,500 KRW
Once you’ve paid the fees and handed in all the necessary documents, you’re good to go. You can then trade in for your shiny new Korean license!
Getting a Korean License
If you want to erase the bureaucratic hassle completely, then the easiest way is to get a Korean license the old-fashioned way. This process takes longer, but may be worth it in the long run, especially if you’re settling in Korea. The application process has 5 steps:
Step 1: Traffic Safety Class
Once you register your online application, you will be assigned a date and time for a traffic safety class. The class is 1 hour long, and you’ll need to bring your alien registration card with you.
Step 2: Health Assessment
Next, you’ll need a certificate that confirms your fitness to continue with the driving license application. Most regional examination offices will perform the health assessment on-site, so you can head straight to your exams afterwards. There is a 6,000 KRW fee for the assessment. Additionally, you’ll need a form of ID, just like in step 1.
Step 3: Theory Exam
After your clean bill of health, you’re ready for the written driving theory exam. The exam consists of 40 questions, has no time limit and is marked pass or fail. Furthermore, there’s no need to worry. If you fail, you can re-take the exam the next day! You must pass the exam within 1 year of your first attempt, otherwise you’ll have to reapply. There is a 7,500 KRW fee for the theory exam.
Step 4: Practical Exam (Off-Road Course)
Next up is the first practical exam. This test is carried out on a make-shift course at the test centre, with a certified driving instructor. The test is designed to assess your basic driving skills, such as turn signals, windshield wipers and emergency stops. You’ll need 3 colour passport-style photos and to pay the 18,000 KRW processing fee. If you fail the exam, you can take it again after 3 days.
After you pass the theory and practical courses, you’ll be given a temporary driver’s license. This license will permit you to practise driving on-road with a driving instructor, ahead of your final exam. The license is valid for 1 year and the processing fee costs 3,500 KRW.
Step 5: Practical Exam (On Road)
Finally, you must pass the on-road driving test with a certified examiner. During the test, you will need to prove you are able to drive safely, and have a sufficient knowledge of the Korean road rules. The test format varies, but will generally include sections on driving, parking, changing lanes and more. Once again, if you fail, you may retake the test. However, you must pass the exam while your temporary driver’s license is still valid. You will also need to pay a 25,000 KRW fee.
If you’re successful, you’ll receive a Korean driver’s license! In this case, your license will last a lot longer than foreign licenses and leave you unrestricted in purchasing vehicles, insurance and more.
So, getting a driver’s license in Korea doesn’t need to be any more complex than getting one in your own country. Are you planning to get on the roads in Korea? Which route will you take? Let us know in the comments below!