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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 may be held by the DLA and returned to you before you depart Korea, either 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 

The process varies depending on whether the applicant's license is from what the DLA refers to as an AC (acknowledged countries) or UC (unacknolwedged country). Click here for more details / Revised list as of June 2017.
Exchange Rquirements:
1. 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. Note that there is also a 'foreigners desk' at the Gangnam Center. 
2.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 or click on the DLA website.
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 or an apostille may be required depending on your country of origin. 
e. You will want to check with the DLA (online or in person) to confirm what is required in your particular situation. The requirements can vary on a case-by-case basis. There are also exceptions for areas within a given country. For example, licenses issued in some United States states are treated differently than those from other states (for example, even though the US is an AC countries, a written exam may be required for drivers whose licenses were issued in Oregon and Idaho..

** 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 W12,500; for Unacknowledged Countries W20,000 (fees applicable in 2017)

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. 
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 may have to take a written test and a driving test, as well as a physical test and safety course. The DLA website provides information on which tests are available at each of the DLA centers.
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 cost less than W20,000.

FEES:  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 / which tests available at each center.

Website has information in English, Chinese and Japanese  
Main Office: Switchboard: (02-1577-1120 (recording in Korean - no English speakers may be available)
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
List of DLA offices

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 2021-11-10

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