Survival Seoul: Getting a License

Even though there are numerous forms of public transportation in Seoul, I know that some of you would rather just have the convenience of a car. Sometimes it’s just nice to be behind the wheel of a vehicle. It’s just nice to be in control.

Some of you might want to go out and buy a vehicle of your own, or you might want to have a license so you can rent a vehicle when you go on vacation. Now to do this, the first thing you should do is get a license. Just so you know, all the information I’m going to tell you can be found on the Driver’s License Agency Website at That’s

There are two ways to go about doing this if you already have a license. If you already have a driver’s license from another country, you can just exchange it for a Korean License. For this you just have to take the aptitude test.

The other way is for you to get an International License. The International License is just a certificate that accompanies your actual license. You can get these issued overseas, the last time I checked, the triple A (AAA) in America issued these. The International License can also be issued in Korea.

The difference between these two is that the International License is only valid for 1 year. After which, you have to get a Korean license, which is good for 7 years- unless you 65 or older then it’s only good for 5 years. And you need to have your ARC(the Alien Registration Card), to get the Korean license, whereas you only need your passport for the International License.

Before you get your license, you should know that you need your ARC card and you need to go in person- you can’t do this by proxy. And you can only exchange a full license. You cannot exchange a temporary or permit license.

To exchange your license, you need to take your foreign driver’s license, an Embassy certificate unless you are from a country that is exempt. The countries that are exempt are the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Belgium, and Poland. A Notary of a translation of your license (again, this you don’t need this if your country is exempt.) You need you passport, your ARC card, money, and three photos 3cm X 4cm. You can get these photos at any Photoshop by saying, “passport photo.” And if you can’t find a photoshop, there are photo booths all over the place.

After you give the Driver’s license information to them, you’ll do an eye test and a written test. Again, you won’t have to take the written test if your country recognizes the Korean license. The written test is made up of about 20 multiple choice questions and you there are review books in English, French, and Chinese for you to study.
You can see the complete list of countries that recognize the Korean license at If you pass, they’ll take your license and then give you a Korean one. The Korean license is valid in many countries and you can use the license just like a regular license.

Oh, and one more thing. Now, policy is that you can take your passport and airline ticket to the license center and they will return your original license.

Now if you don’t have a foreign license, you’re going to have to take the same steps as someone who is learning to drive for the first time. You need to be over 18 years old and have an Arc card. Then you are going to have to take a knowledge test, a technical test and a road course test.
If you’ve never driven before then, you are going to have to have to go to a driving school. I don’t know if there are a lot of open parking lots where your father will be able to teach you how to drive.

There are private schools all over the place and they’ll teach you how to drive from beginning to finish. I’m sure they’ll also give you excellent instruction on parallel parking and driving in reverse. I’m amazed to this day how people can park anywhere here.
Furthermore, I’m sure that there are some schools that will teach you to drive in English- or with lots of frantic grunts and hand motions. I’m sure if you contact the Seoul Global Center or BBB they will be able to help you find a school.

Now it is very important that you have a license to drive in Korea. If you don’t have a license, it may mean a fine plus a 5-year probation. Just driving with your foreign license is the same as driving without a license.

And, like in all countries, Drunk Driving is severely frowned upon. NO SOJU before you get behind the wheel. Plus, Korea has sobriety tests everywhere. If you have a .05% amount of alcohol- about 2 beers, they could cancel your license and you’ll face criminal prosecution.

Now tomorrow we will have Richard Sinnamon on the air and he’s going to talk about how to buy a car in Korea and what it’s like to drive in Korea.

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