I love driving and have been doing so since 1986. I remember sitting in my Driver’s Education class, dreaming about cross-country trips. Eventually I earned my license and did just that. When I came to Korea, I brought with me an International Driver’s Permit. This, along with my US license would allow me to drive anywhere. With the incredible transportation available in the Seoul Metro area, I never got behind the wheel.
However, as I started traveling more and more around Korea with my wife and friends, we found that as a group, we were spending more and more on buses and trains than if we simply hired a car.
The problem with International Driving Permits is that they’re only valid for one year (some countries do offer two-year permits) and you have to carry this large document along with your native country’s driver’s license. If you have a purse (or man bag) that may not be a problem, but I usually only have my wallet and small camera bag on hand, so I need something compact, like a Korean Driver’s license.
Exchanging a foreign license for a Korean license is really simple and important if you’re going to be staying in Korea for an extended period of time. I say this because it negates the need to carry around the Driving Permit and makes owning or renting a car so much easier. To exchange your native country’s driver’s license you’ll need these items:
1. Original foreign license (to be submitted for exchanging it with Korean license).
2. Confirmation issued in Korean or English issued by the “nation’s embassy in Korea” or “Korean embassy in the nation” to certify the authenticity of the foreign driver’s license.
3. Immigration certificate and passport (for Koreans) / passport (for foreigners):
* Immigration certificate or passport must prove that the person has stayed for at least 90 days in the nation that issued the driver’s license .
4. Identification Card:
* Korean: identification card, passport or other types of valid identification issued by Korea
* Foreigner: passport and certificate of foreigner registration
* Korean residents abroad: passport and residence report card of overseas Koreans
* A person who is staying for 90 days or less and has not registered as a foreigner cannot exchange his or her foreign driver’s license for Korean license. (However, applying the driver’s license test without exemptions is allowed.)
5.Three (3) color photograph (passport sized).
Once these documents are in hand, make your way to one of the 26 facilities to take the test and get your license. The process isn’t free, but the fees are nominal: Physical examination fee (5,000 won), license production cost (6,000 won), simple writing test (6,000 won).
That’s it. The entire process took me only two hours. For complete information visit the official page of the Road Traffic Authority Driver’s License Examination Office: http://www.dla.go.kr/english/index.jsp.