Korean Driver’s License Exchange

Summary: In Korea, obtaining a driver’s license is a crucial step towards independence and mobility. In this article, we will discuss the various aspects of acquiring a South Korean driver’s license, such as the necessary documents, eligibility requirements, and the testing process.

1. Eligibility Requirements

To obtain a driver’s license in South Korea, applicants must be at least 18 years old and have a valid Alien Registration Card (ARC). Foreigners who hold a student visa are eligible to apply for a license after residing in the country for at least 90 days. Furthermore, applicants must pass a physical examination and attend a mandatory education program on traffic rules and regulations. It is worth noting that individuals with certain medical conditions such as epilepsy or mental illness may be prohibited from obtaining a driver’s license.

Most importantly, applicants must pass both a written and practical driving test. The driving test evaluates the applicant’s ability to operate a vehicle, obey traffic signals, and follow traffic regulations. Therefore, it is essential for applicants to practice extensively and familiarize themselves with Korean traffic rules before taking the test.

Lastly, foreigners who already hold an international driver’s permit may be able to convert it to a South Korean driver’s license. However, this requires the successful completion of a written exam and an eyesight test.

2. Necessary Documents

Before applying for a driver’s license, applicants must gather several documents such as their Alien Registration Card, passport, certificate of resident registration, and a medical certificate confirming their physical and mental health. Additionally, foreigners must provide a recent photograph and proof of residency in Korea, such as a rental agreement or utility bill.

All documents must be translated into Korean by an authorized translator and then notarized by the Korean embassy. Applicants should carefully check the validity period of their documents since some documents, such as medical certificates, may have an expiration date. Moreover, it is advisable to keep multiple copies of all necessary paperwork in case any issues arise during the application process.

It is also worth noting that applicants may be required to submit additional documents if they have a criminal record or have been involved in any traffic violations in Korea.

3. Written Test

The written test is a crucial component of the South Korean driver’s license application process. It comprises 40 multiple-choice questions on various subjects such as traffic signs, rules of the road, and vehicle safety. Applicants must correctly answer at least 21 questions to pass the test.

Fortunately, the written test can be taken in several languages such as English, Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese. Applicants who need translation services must notify the licensing center in advance and bring an authorized translator with them on their test day.

It is recommended that applicants take advantage of the free study materials provided by the government before the test. Furthermore, there are various smartphone apps and online resources available that can help applicants prepare for the exam.

4. Practical Driving Test

The practical driving test evaluates the applicant’s ability to drive safely and confidently in various traffic situations. The test is conducted on a specially designed course and includes tasks such as parallel parking, uphill parking, and emergency stops.

During the exam, the applicant must demonstrate their ability to handle the vehicle smoothly and follow all traffic regulations. The test typically lasts around 20 minutes, and the examiner assigns points based on the applicant’s performance. If the applicant accrues more than 40 penalty points, they fail the test.

Due to the high failure rate of the practical driving test, most applicants choose to enroll in a driving school to increase their chances of success. Driving schools offer courses on the rules of the road, essential driving skills, and simulated practice driving exams which can be beneficial for preparing for the test.

5. Renewing a License

Once an individual obtains a South Korean driver’s license, the license is valid for ten years. After the expiration date, the license must be renewed through a simple process that involves taking a vision test and paying a fee. It is essential to note that if an individual receives a traffic violation during their driving period, they may be required to attend a mandatory safety education program before renewing their license.

Moreover, the South Korean government requires individuals over the age of 65 to renew their driver’s license every three years to ensure that they can drive safely and confidently. The renewal process for senior drivers involves a medical examination and a road test to evaluate their driving abilities.

Lastly, individuals who lose their driver’s licenses or have them stolen must report the incident to the police and visit the licensing center to apply for a replacement license. A replacement license can be issued on the same day for a fee.


In Korea, obtaining a driver’s license is a vital step towards independence and mobility. However, the process of acquiring a driver’s license can be rigorous and stressful due to the extensive testing procedures. Therefore, applicants must prepare thoroughly by studying the rules of the road and practicing driving skills extensively. Additionally, applicants should ensure that they have all the necessary documents and meet the eligibility requirements before applying for a driver’s license. By following these guidelines, individuals can obtain a South Korean driver’s license and enjoy the freedom of the open road.

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