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The Seoul Expat Review

Drive Your Way Through Korea: How to Get Your Driver’s License and Learning Permit in Seoul

March 12, 2017

While there is an abundance of tourist attractions and natural sites to visit in Seoul, there are many hidden discoveries in the surrounding cities that can enrich a traveler’s experience in Korea. Even expats who have been living in Korea for several years may have overlooked stunning places that go beyond day trips to the DMZ. Take a group of friends to the beach or go skiing in the mountainside. It includse trips to the arresting green tea fields of Boseong, the ancient capital of Korea, Gyeongju, and the many temples in the countryside. For when you arrive, HERE‘s a list of accommodations that include parking spaces.

While buses and trains are one way of visiting these national treasures, driving might be a more comfortable, efficient, and cheap way of traveling. And the great thing is Korea has one of the easiest systems for getting your driver’s license. For a basic outline and list of the steps, take a look at the end of the blog. 

 

In order to rent a car in Korea, however, foreigners first need to obtain an international driving permit or exchange/apply for a foreigner’s driver’s license. It is illegal to drive in Korea with a foreign-issued driver’s license. This is also true for people who would need a car to commute to and from work in Seoul.

As more temporary measure, you could apply for an international driving permit. This permit lasts for a full year from the date it was issued. Even though the time for which it is valid is short, the processing fee is inexpensive and is only 8,500 KRW. One complication that could potentially arise is that if your home country’s driver license is suspended or disqualified, then your international driving permit is as well. It isn’t until the suspension period is over that the international driving permit can be used again.

NOTE: Even though it is issued in Korea, an international driving permit is not enough by itself. When driving, the permit-holder should have three identification documents with them including the international driving permit. For example, you could drive with the permit, your Korean driver’s license, and a passport, and that would be perfectly legal.

In order to apply for a driving permit, you need to visit a regional driver’s license examination office. You can apply individually or through an agent. Here is a list of what you would need to bring:

Applying in person:
Passport (copy acceptable)
Driver’s license
Passport size photo (3.5×4.5cm) or color photo (3x4cm)

Applying by agent:
Passport (copy acceptable)
Driver’s license
Passport size photo (3.5×4.5cm) or color photo (3x4cm)
Agent ID
Power of Attorney signed

For a list of driver’s license schools and instructors, click HERE.

If you already have a driver’s license from your home country, you might possibly be able to have your original license exchanged for a Korean one. You may do so if you are from an Acknowledge Country (AC), listed below.

Asia
(25)

New Zealand, Nepal, Taiwan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Brunei, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Australia, India, Japan, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Thailand, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Fiji, Philippines, HongKong

America
(19)

Guatemala, Nicaragua, Rep. of Dominique, Commonwealth of Dominique, Mexico(Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Tlaxcala), Bahamas, Brazil, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Chile, Canada, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, USA(Maryland, Virginia, Washington, Massachusetts, Texas, Florida, Oregon, Michigan, Idaho, Alabama, West Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Hawaii, Pennsylvania)
※For Oregon and Idaho, you must take a simple written exam.

Europe
(39)

Greece, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Rumania, Luxemburg, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, Malta, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, Spain, Slovakia, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Albania, England, Austria, Italy, Georgia, Czech Rep., Croatia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Portugal, Poland, France, Finland, Hungary

Middle East
(14)

Lebanon, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq(Arbil), UAE, Algeria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Oman, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Iran, Israel

Africa
(34)

Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Basau, Namibia, Nigeria, Niger, Liberia, Libya, Rwanda, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mauritius, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Chad, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Republic of the Congo, Tunisia

Original list retrieved from Road Traffic Authority: Driver’s License Examination Offices. http://dl.koroad.or.kr/license/en/sub/intLic.jsp.

In order to exchange your license, you can visit any one of the regional driver’s license examination offices. You have to take the aptitude test in addition to the health check, but you are excluded from having to take the written examination.

If you don’t have a driver’s license from your home country, you cannot exchange your driver’s license for a Korean license unless you take the written examination, the aptitude test, and get a health check.

If you change your mind about exchanging your license, it is easy to undo the process. You can request for the domestic license be returned if you leave Korea and go overseas. The same goes for being requested on a diplomatic mission. You can also cancel you application or Korean driver’s license at any moment. However, any foreign licenses they have in their possession that does not get a return application will be discarded. So if you plan on returning home and using your license, it is a good idea to keep that in mind when you make your plans.

Basic steps for getting your license or driving permit:

1. Traffic Safety Education (1 hour)

2. Health Check

a. Except for the Taebaek and Kangllung offices, you can get a health check done in one of the health check rooms of the regional examination offices for driver’s licenses.

3. Apply for the Written Exam

4. Take the Exam

a. If you fail the exam, you can take it again the next day.

5. Apply for Driving Course Test

a. If you fail the course test, you can take it again in three days.

b. If you pass, you can now get a temporary driving license issued.

6. However, you still need to apply for the on-road driving exam

7. Take the On-Road Driving Exam

a. If you fail, you can retake the test after three days. 

b. If you pass, you will be issued a permanent driver’s license.

by AngloINFO. Find out more about AngloINFO here.

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