Friday, January 18, 2008

How to Get a Driver's License in South Korea

Things you need to bring in order to get a Korean driver's license. This is if you have a U.S. driver's license:

1. U.S. Passport
2. U.S. Driver's License
3. Alien Registration Card
4. Three headshot photos (3cm by 4cm)
5. 11,000 WON - 6000 is for the registration and 5000 is for the physical exam

Also, it would be helpful (even mandatory!) to go with a Korean or someone who can speak Korean. It can be really crowded and confusing so we were so glad that my friend Hellena offered to help us out. We went to the examination office near the Samseong Station.

Directions: Subway Line #2, proceed to exit 1, exit and walk straight about two or so blocks. You will see a small sign in English stating "Driver's Examination Center." Turn right at this corner and it is about 1/2 blocks down and on the left. You will need to cross the street. Enter the building on your left and also the leftmost set of door, proceed to the 2nd floor and you will see a sign "Foreign License." Immediately to the left of the sign is a number machine and you need to press the button and get a number. Then sit and wait for your number to appear.

Hellena said it was best to go at 9:00am when they open, it gets very crowded as the day goes on.



A look at the station.



Curt anxiously waiting for Hellena to finish the paperwork.


Curt's number was called. Curt and Hellena completing his paperwork. Aren't her boots too cool? After your paperwork is finished, you go to the first floor to pay your 6000 WON, then you go to the physical examination building which is across from the registration building.


This is the front of the building. You enter and pay 5000 won and then wait in line. The examiner comes out and ushers a bunch in and you are lined up like a police lineup. The examiner has you squat for about 5-10 seconds, then you must show him you can flex your fingers.



Next comes the individual eye test. Here is Curt during his eye test. Next comes a color blindness test and you are done. You return to the first building and go back to the second floor and get another number. After your number is called, your completed paperwork is turned in and your license will be ready in 1 hour. So we went to lunch and returned after an hour. Again it is the place you began and you must get a number for the third time. It was pretty crowded by now. Curt's number was finally called and his Korea license was ready to go. He had to sign for it and we were done.
You also need to know that you must surrender your U.S. license. You can get it back before leaving Korea by showing them airline tickets. I'm not sure how we will do that since we always are issued e-tickets these days but that's to worry about another day. You need to get a Korea license if you plan on staying in Korea over a year. The international driver's permit we received in the States is only good for one year.
So why did Curt get a Korean license and Becky (me) did not:
1. They drive crazy here and I have no intention of ever driving in Korea except in an emergency.
2. Their parking spaces are so narrow that all cars have a feature where you can retract your side mirrors. I'm a lousy parker even when the spaces are wide.
3. I'm not crazy about giving up my U.S. license. Curt didn't mind but I'm afraid Korea will lose it. Maybe I'm too much of a control freak.
A funny thing while we were waiting, Curt and Hellena were at the counter and I was seated with others waiting for their number to appear. A Korean girl (about 16-18) who was waiting with her boyfriend (I think) kept stealing glances at me. This continued for a few minutes and then I think she finally got up the courage to talk to me. She suddenly spun around and asked me, "Why are you here?" I said that my husband was getting a Korean driver's license. She said, "No, why are you in Korea?" I explained in the simplest terms I could and the questions kept coming. She told me she had already spent a year in Canada studying English and was going to go again because she had forgotten all her English for a three week period. It had since returned but it had frightened her enough that she asked her parents to send her to Canada a second time. I told her that her English was very good and it really was. She was absolutely delighted. Curt and Hellena returned which ended our conversation. Curt said, "Do you make friends wherever you go?" I told him, "I do in Korea."

3 comments:

CreekHiker said...

Congratulations to Curt on the DL!!! I can't even imagine a physical test! What an incredible experience.

Becky said...

Hey Girl: Six months ago I wouldn't have passed but now I'm quite good and squatting.

Becky said...

Hey Girl: Six months ago I wouldn't have passed but now I'm quite good and squatting.

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