License to Drive

2

Always check with Korean authorities about the most up-to-date procedures before applying. This information was accurate as of 3/28/13

If you’re a resident in Korea for more than 1 year and you want to drive, you’ll eventually have to pay a visit to the local Korean DMV to obtain a Korean license (don’t worry, it’s not as painful as it sounds).

There are 2 options for obtaining a driver’s license in Korea:

A-     Convert your original, valid U.S. drivers license into a Korean driver’s license, or

B-      Apply and obtain a Korean license from scratch

On the surface, option A seems a bit easier. However, option A requires you to submit an apostilled copy of your U.S. license and we’ve recently heard from some of you that obtaining the apostille from the U.S. can be difficult and time consuming. So, we specifically wanted to check out option B during this visit.  For the record, option A will cost you either 16,000 won or 10,000 won depending on which state you hail from and if your state has a reciprocity agreement with Korea. More information on option A can be found here.

Option B basically requires you to attend a safety training, check your eyes, take20130327_140719 a written test, a driving course test, and then a road test. I know, it sounds like a lot, but the DMV assured us that if scheduling permits, you could complete the entire process in as little as one day. Some folks might have to return a second day if the driving test schedule is full when they apply. The total cost is only 55,000 won and don’t worry, the training and tests are all in English and they provide the car.  A few tidbits of insider information we gathered during this visit are: Mondays, Fridays, and the days after Korean Holidays are the busiest; if you have a certificate from a Korean hospital/doctor indicating that your eyes are in good shape, then you can skip the eye test at the DMV; and almost all Americans who have already driven in the U.S. pass the tests (for those of you who have never driven before, it may be slightly difficult). They offer the safety training, the first step in the entire process) at 9:30, 11:20, and 15:20, so you may want to time your visit based on these courses since you have to start with this. Detailed information about option B  is here.  Overall we found the DMV process to be easy to navigate. There’s a bit of going up and down to the various floors of the building and a fair amount of “taking a number”, but it’s all totally manageable. The customer service staff that guide you through the process spoke excellent English and all the staff we encountered were courteous and kind.

We’re in constant contact with the authorities in the Korean Government who manage foreigner licensing and are always exploring options to make this process as simple as possible for U.S. citizens. For those of you struggling to obtain the apostille from your state, we hope this write-up encourages you to consider option B and just take the regular driving test. You could be on your way in your vehicle in as little as 1 or 2 days.

Safe Driving!

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16 responses to “License to Drive

  1. Is there a law that prevents a foreigner living in Korea from using an International Driving Permit for more than one year? I know those are issued for one year at a time, but they are easy to renew from abroad. If you renew the permit, is it still invalid for driving in Korea?

    • Thank you for your inquiry. If you are a short-term visitor and wish to drive in Korea, you must have an international driving permit (in addition to a valid U.S. driver’s license). Otherwise, you must have a Korean driver’s license.

      Foreigners who wish to drive in Korea are subject to the traffic laws and regulations of Korea. Please refer to the Korean Driver’s License Agency’s website regarding driving in Korea with an international driving permit.

      You may also wish to contact the Seoul Global Center for detailed guidance on driving in Korea.

      Contact information is as below:

      • Website: http://global.seoul.go.kr/
      • Information desk: 02-1688-0120 (English: 02-2075-4130~1)
      • E-mail: hotline@seoul.go.kr

      Thank you.

  2. I see two different locations in Gangnam- one is near the COEX world trade center; and the other is in Seocho. Can the entire process be completed at any one location? I don’t understand how they’re are different. A reply would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Hello,
    I am located at Humphreys/Osan Area. I want to get a new license from scratch. First attempt for license ever. Is there anything closer to Osan/Humphreys area that you recommend that are suited for English Speaking first time license obtainers? thank you

  4. Can I apply for an international driver’s licence at the embassy? NOT for driving in Korea but for when I leave and travel?

  5. Hi there, I plan to visit Korea later this year as a short term/holiday visitor. I have a Learner’s permit in Australia but would like to drive in Korea. Can I obtain a Driver’s Licence from scratch?

  6. Hello! My wife has a Korean Drivers License (KDL) but has become a citizen of the United States. While the KDL has not expired, does her citizenship make her KDL invalid? Does she need to obtain an International Drivers Permit or will the KDL remain valid until it expires?

  7. How do I get the necessary Apostile paper work from the state of Virginia? Apositled documents are official record that a copy is real, but what do i have to certify is real? What exactly does the Korean DMV want?

  8. What about motorcycle license? I am an American citizen. When I lived in Thailand I got a Thai auto and motorcycle license. What is the process for a motorcycle license in South Korea?

    • Thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately, even if you have a valid motorcycle license which was issued in Thailand, you cannot exchange it for Korean motorcycle license. Please contact KoRoad Global Center directly for obtaining a motor cycle license in Korea. 02-2075-4127 Thank you.

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