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How to Buy a Moped in South Korea [A Comprehensive Guide]

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Mopeds make getting around South Korea easy and affordable. They're a practical, environmentally-friendly choice for urban travel and short commutes. In this blog post, we will explain the legal aspects, types, costs, and safety regulations of mopeds in South Korea.

moped in south korea

Image Source: The Korea Times

What is Considered a Moped in South Korea?

Mopeds, commonly referred to as "Oto-bai (오토바이)" in Korean, are two-wheeled motor vehicles with an engine displacement not exceeding 125 cubic centimeters (cc). Any motorized two-wheeler exceeding this engine capacity is typically considered a motorcycle under Korean law.

One of the reasons mopeds are a popular mode of transportation in South Korea is their fuel efficiency. These vehicles provide an economical and eco-friendly means to navigate through urban congestion. They're ideal for short commutes, zipping through traffic, and leisurely rides, becoming a favorite among city dwellers for daily transportation needs.

Mopeds' size and lower engine power, compared to motorcycles, make them accessible to a broader range of riders. South Korean law permits holders of a regular car driver's license (Type 2) to operate mopeds with an engine capacity of up to 125cc, making it convenient for individuals with such licenses.

Types of Mopeds Available in South Korea

foldable moped in seoul

Image Source: Korea JoongAng Daily

Whether you prioritize environmental consciousness, versatility, or style, there's a moped to suit your preferences:

  1. Electric Mopeds/Scooters (전기 오토바이): Electric mopeds, also known as e-scooters, are revered for their eco-friendliness and low operating costs. With zero emissions, these vehicles are perfect for short commutes and contribute to a cleaner urban environment.

  2. Gasoline-Powered Mopeds (휘발유 오토바이): Gasoline-powered mopeds offer more speed and endurance compared to their electric counterparts, making them ideal for longer journeys. While they consume more energy, they're still more cost-efficient than cars, especially for daily use.

  3. Foldable Mopeds/Scooters (접이식 오토바이): Compact, lightweight, and designed to save space, foldable mopeds are an excellent fit for bustling urban areas with limited storage. These vehicles require a driver's license to operate, just like any other moped, contrary to what many might believe.

Licensing, Documents, and Registration

Understanding the rules and regulations related to mopeds in South Korea is essential to ensure safety and responsible road use.

Licensing Requirements

In South Korea, a valid driver's license (운전 면허증) is a prerequisite to operating a moped or any motorized two-wheeled vehicle. For mopeds with an engine capacity not exceeding 125cc, an additional motorcycle endorsement is not required. This means that holders of regular Class 2 driver's licenses can operate mopeds.

Age Restrictions

The minimum age to legally operate a moped in South Korea is 16 years old, as stipulated in the Road Traffic Act.

Registration and Insurance

According to the Automobile Management Act, all mopeds must be registered within 15 days of purchase. The registration process involves obtaining a license plate and a vehicle registration certificate. Simultaneously, it's mandatory to have Third Party Liability Insurance (자동차보험) for your moped, which covers injuries, fatalities, and property damage caused to third parties.

Safety Gear Regulations

The use of safety gear is strictly enforced under South Korean law. Helmets are mandatory for both moped drivers and passengers. The helmet must be securely fastened and must comply with Korean safety standards as outlined by the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS).

Key Considerations Before Buying a Moped

Before making the leap and purchasing your dream moped, consider these essential factors:

  1. Budget: Mopeds come in various price ranges, so knowing your financial constraints is essential.

  2. Purpose: Knowing your intended use will help you narrow your choices.

  3. Brand Reputation: Investing in a reputable brand ensures you're getting a reliable and well-built moped.

  4. Fuel Efficiency: Opt for models with excellent mileage and low fuel consumption.

  5. Maintenance and Servicing: Inquire about the availability of service centres and the cost of spare parts for the specific moped model you are interested in.

Expected Costs

The financial implications of buying and owning a moped break down as follows:

Cost of Mopeds

As of 2023, a new, average auto moped in South Korea costs between 2,500,000 – 5,500,000 won for non-import models due to inflation and advancements in technology. Used 50cc scooters typically cost between 600,000 – 1,200,000 won, while a good condition 125cc moped might set you back around 800,000 – 1,800,000 won.

Insurance Cost

The cost of moped insurance usually falls between 250,000 – 450,000 won annually, depending on factors like the rider's driving history, the bike's type, and the chosen insurance plan. This is considerably cheaper than car insurance, which can range upwards of 1,200,000 won per year.

Helmet Cost

Helmets, which are mandatory for all moped drivers and passengers, range from 80,000 – 200,000 won, depending on the brand and safety features.

Fuel Cost

The fuel cost depends significantly on the commute distance and the type of moped. On average, a moped tank costs around 8,000-22,000 won to fill up.

Fines and Punishments for E-Scooter and Moped Users in South Korea

speed limit sign in south korea

Image Source: HapsKorea

Operating Without a License

E-scooter drivers without a valid license: 100,000 won fine.

Parents or guardians of offenders under 16 also fined.

Moped operators without a valid license: up to 2,000,000 won fine or up to one year prison term.

Riding Under the Influence

Users of e-scooters under the influence: 100,000 won fine, increased from the previous penalty of 30,000 won.

Refusal to take a Breathalyzer test: 130,000 won fine.

Intoxicated users can also have their driver’s licenses suspended.

Safety Gear Violations

Absence of protective headgear while driving e-scooters or mopeds: 20,000 won fine.

Speeding and Illegal Parking

Exceeding the speed limit with mopeds: fines start from 30,000 won, depending on the exceeded speed.

Incorrectly parked mopeds: 40,000 won fine or more, depending on the location and frequency of violations.

Note: Fines and punishments may increase depending on the severity of the violation or if it's a repeated offense.

Promotions and Challenges

E-scooter rental services have initiated reward campaigns to promote driver’s license registration on their mobile applications, providing coupons and discounts. However, policing these regulations can be difficult, given the estimated 1.15 million registered e-scooter users and the absence of a specialized monitoring system.

Road Safety Measures

The rise in traffic accidents involving e-scooters led the National Assembly to pass revisions to the regulations in December. Police data show that reported traffic accidents involving personal mobility devices in Seoul rose from 29 cases in 2017 to 134 cases in 2019, with two fatalities and 225 injuries.

To further mitigate such incidents, authorities are contemplating more bike paths for e-scooters. As per the Road Traffic Act, e-scooter users are required to use roads when no bike lanes are available and are prohibited from driving on sidewalks and pedestrian paths.

In conclusion, observing local regulations in South Korea is vital for the safety of all road users. Remember, maintaining a valid license, wearing safety gear, and driving responsibly are not just legal necessities, they're pivotal to your safety on the road. Stay safe and have fun!

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