Daily Life > Driving in Korea

Getting a Korean Driver's License

Getting a Korean Driver's ...

To drive in Korea you can use an International Driver's License or, if you are a long-term resident, you can obtain a Korean driver's license - this can be done in one of the two ways described below.

Short-term visitors can use an International Driver's License.
An International Driver’s License is as valid as a Korean driver’s license during the term of its validity. You must also cary your regular driver's license with you if you are using an international driver's license in Korea. However, if you are a long-term resident, you must obtain a Korean driver's license.

Long-term residents can either exchange their driver's license for a Korean one or apply for a local license. If you are given a Korean license by the Korean Driver's License Authority (DLA), your home country license will be held by the DLA and will be returned to you before you depart Korea, on vacation or permanently. Just bring your fixed flight departure itinerary to a DLA office or to the Seoul Global Center. (Note that the DLA staff at SGC cannot give tests so if you have to take a test you will have to go to a regular DLA office.) Whether you have to take a test depends on your nationality and visa status (see more details below).

EXCHANGING your license for a Korean one is an option if you 
are from a country that recognise Korean driver’s licenses. Exchanging means just that - you will have to hand in your foreign driver's license in exchange for a Korean one. Your license will be returned to you when you leave the country. If you don't want to give up your license, you can apply for a Korean license. The difference lies mainly in the tests. For both options, you have to undergo a physical exam. However, the exhange option exempts you from the other tests. 
Exchange Rquirements:
1. You must be from one of the below listed countries.
2. Apply in person at a Driver's License Agency (proxy applications are not accepted). If you don't need to take a test, you can go to the
Seoul Global Center. If you are required to take a written test in order to exchange your license, then you must go down to the DLA office to do so. Whether or not you have to take this test depends on your visa status and which citizenship you hold. To find out if you do have to take the test contact 02)2075-4127 and ask for the driver’s license issuing desk.
3. Bring your Alien Registration Card (ARC). Those people who are legal residents but who are not issued an ARC must bring a record of their entries/exits. 
4.Bring 3 photos (3cm x 4cm) 
5. Bring your passport.
If your license is not from your home country, you must produce an official letter to prove that you resided in the issuing country for more than 90 days. For example, an UK citizens with a Canadian passport, will have to prove that s/he was a resident of Canada for more than 90 days.
6. Bring your foreign driver's license
a. If your driver's license is not in English, you must bring a translated and notarised copy of the license. The translation must inlcude the issed date and validity period of the license.
b. If your driver’s license doesn’t indicate the date on which it was issued, you will have to obtain a certification letter providing that information.

c. The license must be a full and valid license. It cannot be a permit, a temporary, motorcylce, etc. license.
d. A certificate from your embassy is required unless you are from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Spain, UK. 
d.1. If you are from the United States*, as of 1 January 2013, an apostille** from the state in which your license was issued is required - the US Embassy no loner provides notary certification for US issued drivers licenses. 
* see the US Embassy website for more details.
** for a list of apostille issuing authorities(around the world, including the United States), see the Hague conference on Private International Law website. For more information on what is an apostille and how to get one, see the K4E Apostille Requirements page.

7. You may have to undergo an eyesight and hearing (aka physical) test (cost ~W17,000, includes physical and cost of license)
8. You may have to take a written test depending on your country/state of origin and on whether or not your state/country has a reciprocal agreement on drivers licenses with Korea. Americans from the following states do not have to take the written exam: Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, Washington, DC., and West Virginia. 
9. Processing fee for acknowledge countries W10,000; for unacknowledged countries W16,000.

Getting Back your Driver's License:
To get back your dirver's license you must present yourself at the DLA office with your passport and airline airline ticket with you (e-tickets are accepted). This can be done when you are leaving the country on a trip and not just when you are leaving permanently.  (Whether or not you can use your Korea license in your home country will depend on that nation's rules - many people can use their Korean license on short trips home.) Note that you must return to the DLA office where you left your driver's license.

OBTAINING a Korean License if you are from a country that does not recognise Korean Driver's Licenses of if you don't want to surrender your driver's license. The procedure is the same for both foreign residents and Korean nationals.
1. Apply in person at a Driver's License Agency (proxy applications are accepted under certain conditions).
2. You must be 18 years of age or over
3. Bring your Alien Registration Card (ARC). Those people who are legal residents but who are not issued an ARC must bring a record of their entries/exits.
4. Bring your Passport
5. Bring 3 photos (3cm x 4cm)
6. You will have to take a written test and driving tests, as well a physical test and safety course.
a. Written Test - about 40 or so questions - is available in English, Chinese, French, German, and Japanese. The DLA's have written materials available to help you prepare. The written test costs about W23,000, including the cost of the physical
b. Driving Tests - course driving and real driving - may be required.
c. Safety class takes about 3 hours (depends on where you live if there is one available in English or not) and costs W12,000.

Physical exam W5,000
Written test W6,000
License processing fee W10,000 for acknowledged country and W16,000 unacknowledged country
More details on the DLA website
DURATION: Korean driver's licenses are valid for 7 years, except for those 65 or older who must renew every 5 years. 

ADDRESS CHANGE: Whenever you change your address, you must take your driver’s license to the gu office so that the change can be recorded on it as well as on your alien registration card. 

TEST SITES: English (or other languages) forms and/or translation are not available at all sites. You can contact 02-1577-1129 to confirm whether your local DLA office  has English or other languages (Cambodian, Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Mongol,, Russian, Tagalog, Thai and  Vietnamese). If that doesn't work, contact 02-1330 (the KTO help line and they may be able to identify where there may be English-speaking staff or possibly even provide some basic/limited translation. 
Information in English about Written and Driving Exams on the DLA website.

Website  is in English, Chinese and Japanese available 
Main Office: Switchboard: (02)1577-1120 (recording in Korean - no English speakers)
E-mail: helpdesk@npa.go.kr (if no answer, you may want to follow-up by contacting 02-1330)
Address: 438 Sangam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Countries That Recognise Korean Driver's Licenses*:
Africa: Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cape Verde, Cote d'lvoire, Republic of the Congo, Demoractic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Republic of South Africa, San Tome and Principle, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe
Americas: Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Panama, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Uruguay and in the United States the following states: Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, Washington, DC., and West Virginia.
Asia:  Afghanistan, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Vietnam
Europe: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Romania, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Switzerland, Spain, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the United Kingdom
Middle East: Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen

* As the list of countries that recognise Korean Driver's Licenses may change from time to time, you'll want to check the Driver's LIcense Agencies list of countries.

For information on motorcycle licenses 

K4E Editor: We try to make the information on Korea4Expats.com as complete and accurate as possible, so if you notice any errors or omissions in the content above, please let us know at info@korea4expats.com. For more details on driver's licenses in Korea, go to the Driver's License Agency's website.


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Last Updated on 2013-02-12

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