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From Foreign License to Korean License: How To Get Your Driver's License in South Korea

Updated: Dec 5, 2023


If you're planning to live and work in South Korea, one thing you'll need to consider is getting a driver's license. In this blog post, we'll provide a step-by-step guide on how to get a driver's license in South Korea as a foreigner.


First, let's talk about why having a driver's license is important. South Korea is a highly urbanized country, and public transportation is generally excellent. However, there may be times when you need a car to get around, especially if you're living in a more rural area or need to transport heavy items. Additionally, having a driver's license is essential when it comes to driving a car, moped, and even electric scooters.


Getting a driver's license in South Korea can be a bit complicated, but we're here to guide you through the process.


A man in a class 2 South Korean vehicle for the driver's license test

Foreign Licenses in South Korea: What if I already have a driver’s license in my home country?


Foreigners who are living in Korea and already have a valid driver's license from their home country can exchange it for a Korean driver's license. Here is a list of documents required for the exchange:

  • The driver's license itself (original)

  • Translation of a certificate from the embassy on the validity of a driver’s license and the apostille (original)

  • Passport (original)

  • Alien Registration Card (ARC)

  • Certificate of entry and exit from the Immigration Office

  • Three color photos (3x4)

Additionally, a processing fee of 7,500 won (and an additional 6,000 won for the health check) must be paid.

You may exchange your foreign driver's license for a Korean one without taking a test if your license is from any of the following countries:

Asia

Australia

Brunei

Cambodia

Cook Islands

Fiji

Hong Kong

India

Japan

Kiribati

Laos

Malaysia

Myanmar

Nepal

New Zealand

Palau

Papua New Guinea

Philippines

Samoa

Singapore

Sri Lanka

Taiwan

Thailand

Tonga

Uzbekistan

Vanuatu

Vietnam

Americas

Europe

Middle East

Africa

Types of Licenses in South Korea: Which one is right for me?


In South Korea, Class 1 and Class 2 driver's licenses are available for different types of vehicles. A Class 2 license allows you to operate vehicles with 9 seats or less and 125cc motorcycles. This means that if you want to drive a regular car or a small van, you only need a Class 2 license.


On the other hand, a Class 1 license is required to drive a vehicle with 15 seats or less. This means that if you want to drive a bus or a larger van, you will need to obtain a Class 1 license. It is important to note that some other types of vehicles, such as trucks or heavy machinery, require special licenses beyond Class 1 and Class 2.


It is also worth mentioning that the application process for a Class 1 license is more difficult than that for a Class 2 license. For example, the written test for a Class 1 license is more difficult and the practical driving test is longer and more complex. Class 2 licenses are also necessary for driving stick-shift vehicles in South Korea. However, both Class 1 and Class 2 licenses require mandatory driving training and a written test.


There are different types of driver's licenses available in South Korea, including a standard driver's license, a motorcycle license, and a commercial driver's license. Make sure you know which type of license you have in your home country before you begin the application process.


Driver's License Requirements: What do I need to prepare for the driver's license test in South Korea?


Before you can apply for a driver's license, you'll need to gather some documents and materials. Here's what you'll need:

  • Your Alien Registration Card

  • A passport-sized photo

  • Your foreign driver's license (if applicable)

  • A translated copy of your foreign driver's license (if applicable)

  • A medical certificate from a Korean hospital or clinic

  • An eye test certificate from a Korean optometrist

  • A completed application form

What if I Can’t Speak Korean? Can I still get a Korean driver’s license?


The written test consists of 40 multiple-choice questions and is available in English, Chinese, and Vietnamese. The test covers traffic laws, signs, and safe driving practices. You must score at least 60% to pass the test.


The course test instructions can be given in Chinese, English, or Vietnamese.


The road test is conducted with an instructor. If a bilingual instructor is not available, you may still take the test, but basic Korean knowledge is beneficial.


Korean Driver's License Benefits in Other Countries: Where are Korean driver's licenses valid?


Korean-English driver's licenses are recognized in 54 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Europe. However, it's essential to check with the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit to ensure that your license is valid.


Driver's Licenses Application Process: Where do I start the driver's license application process in South Korea?


If you're planning to get a driver's license in South Korea, you will need to go through the application process with KOROAD (Korea Road Traffic Authority). Here's what you need to know:


1. Traffic Safety Education

  • Register for the course online or on-site

  • Bring a valid government-issued ID (e.g. Alien Registration Card)

  • Class is approximately 1 hour and free of charge

2. Health Check

  • Must receive a clean bill of health before continuing

  • Can be done on-site at regional examination offices or designated hospitals

  • Bring a valid ID

  • Cost is 6,000 won if done at examination office

3. Written Exam

  • 40-question, pass/fail test with no time limit

  • Must pass within 1 year of first attempt, or re-apply

  • Bring 3 color photo headshots (3cm x 4cm), valid ID, and 7,500 won processing fee

  • Some test centers have a photobooth to take and print photos if necessary

4. Driving Course Test

  • Must pass a driving test on a set course with a driving instructor

  • Basic use of vehicle (e.g. turn signals, windshield wiper) and responding to emergency situations will be tested

  • Part of test is judged by a digital grading system, so timing must be followed exactly

  • Test can be done in Korean, English, Vietnamese, or Chinese

  • Must have passed Written Exam and pass Driving Course Test within 1 year of passing Written Exam

  • Bring valid ID and 18,000 won processing fee

5. Obtain Temporary Driver’s License

  • Issued upon successful completion of Driving Course Test

  • Valid for 1 year

  • Bring valid ID and 3,500 won processing fee

6. On-Road Driving Exam

  • Final step to demonstrate full competence in safe driving (including driving, parking, changing lanes, etc.)

  • Must be taken while Temporary Driver’s License is still valid

  • If failed, may re-take after 3 days

  • Bring valid ID, Temporary Driver’s License, and 25,000 won processing fee

7. Get Your License

  • License can be printed in around 20 minutes at the test center or mailed to your address

  • Total cost is approximately KRW60,000 (not including cost of photos)

Note: The KOROAD driver's license application process is subject to change, so it's a good idea to check the KOROAD website or contact them directly for the most up-to-date information.


Getting a driver's license in South Korea as a foreigner can seem daunting, but it's definitely doable with a bit of preparation and patience. Remember to gather all the required documents and materials, complete the mandatory driving training and written test, and practice as much as you can. Good luck!



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