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How does Korean law apply to drivers?Every month JNU law school will answer your questions
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승인 2011.02.12  05:19:36
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Question: I’m thinking of getting a car. I have a valid driver’s license for Korea. If I get in an accident, what should I be aware of legally? Can you give me a best and worst-case scenario if someone is hurt or killed? And what is the best sort of car insurance for a foreigner?

Dear Reader,

First of all, congratulations on the acquisition of a valid driver’s license, which could be a good chance to travel and experience Korea.

My understanding regarding your question can be summarized as follows:
Basically there is no difference between Koreans and foreigners.

In case of an accident, everyone involved is responsible to cover all damages, both financially (vehicle) and legally (people hurt or killed), that have occurred.

When you are trying to buy a car, you will need an insurance receipt and your passport for personal identification. Of course you will need a Korean driver’s license, but in this case there will be no problem.

If you want to understand what an insurance receipt is, you have to know about the Korean insurance system. Korea has two different types of insurance policies: liability insurance and comprehensive insurance. Therefore the best preparation for someone being hurt or killed is prospective signing via detailed contracts with an insurance company and preferably signed liability insurance and comprehensive insurance simultaneously.

Liability insurance (which is legally mandatory) protects innocent people who are involved in an accident. If you do not sign up for a liability insurance policy after you buy a vehicle, you may have to pay a penalty. And you have to remember that liability insurance is minimum action for liability for an accident. If you are in the middle of a serious situation and you have only liability insurance, the situation will be uncontrollable. In the worst case scenario I will explain later in more detail.

Next, comprehensive insurance is not legally mandatory, but it is important to all of us. Liability insurance is the minimum standard of the compensation for damages although comprehensive insurance can deal well with it. If an accident happens, there are many things to consider, for example, there will be repair costs for the vehicle, medical expenses, and compensation for any damages. Comprehensive insurance can offer coverage within the limits of the insurance policy.

You can also select the terms of insurance payment.
If you have an international credit card or Korean debit card, you can choose to pay in a single installment, signing a long-term contract, which will provide a discount rate. Multiple installments may not offer a discount rate. If you want to make the most educated choice, we recommend getting some advice from the nearest insurance counselors.

What is the worst case in an automobile accident? It might be violating one of the 10-point violations named in the Road Traffic Act.

1. Failure to obey a traffic light
2. Driving over the centerline
3. Violation of the speed limit
4. Improper overtaking (passing)
5. Improper railroad [grade] crossing
6. Failure to protect a pedestrian
7. Driving under the influence
8. Unlicensed driving
9. Driving on the sidewalk
10. Overloading

Numbers 7 and 8 are not for insurance, but if you breach any of the 10-point violations determined by the Road Traffic Act, you will receive a criminal penalty unconditionally. And the Constitutional Court made a revision judgment. Presently, if a victim is seriously injured there is no chance to avoid a criminal penalty. Remember, presence of a serious injury or 10-point violation means a criminal penalty. The assailant will have to face a criminal case agreement.

Traffic accidents occur very often. If you decide to drive a car you will likely experience one. Every driver must be careful to prevent car accidents. Nevertheless when an accident happens, the second-most-important thing is not to panic and follow a few tips. Then you will be fine.

First, get accurate figures on the extent of the losses, like damages to vehicles and human victims. If there are serious damages you have to call 119, the emergency number. But if the situation is small, drivers will often agree to call their insurance companies. Under ordinary circumstances the companies handle all kinds of problems. But in cases of serious injury or a 10-point violation you have to call the police.

Second, take photos of the damage and location of vehicles.

Remain calm from start to finish.

In conclusion, the best thing is to be accident-free. Always keep your eyes on the road and remember to renew your insurance every term. And most importantly, drive safely.

Son Min Soo is a graduate student at Jeju National University Law School and a student representative at the JNU’s Legal Clinic.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered in Korea. Readers should consult a lawyer for detailed legal advice. As a service to the non-Korean community, the Jeju National University Legal Clinic (064-754-2989) is available for consultations during regular business hours, Monday to Friday.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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