▲ Learner drivers practicing at the Halla Driving School. Photo by Kim Gyong Ho
With all the conflicting and confusing information circulating on the web and in the English-speaking community, many Jeju residents with limited Korean skills are unaware of the specifics of Jeju laws and regulations. This new series aims to provide solid information from government sources on a variety of topics that provide some facts foreign residents need.
Getting a driver’s license In the tradition of motor vehicle licensing offices throughout the world, the Jeju Driving License Agency is full of complicated regulations, frustrating restrictions and long waits for help. In light of recent conflict between foreign teachers and police over license regulations, the following is an in-depth description of what is required to operate a motor vehicle legally in Korea.
Everyone who drives any motorized vehicle on a road in Jeju needs either a Korean Driver’s License or an Inter-national License. There is no grace period for foreign residents and the license must be obtained before one drives. The penalty for illegal driving of any vehicle, be it a 50 cc scooter, a 250 cc motorcycle, a car or a truck, is a fine of up to 3 million won, which, if not paid, can result in up to one year in prison. At the very least, driving without a license can affect a job by requiring court appearances during work hours or invalidating a visa or contract. To avoid such dire consequences, simply get a legal license, keep it current, and drive with caution.
Yun Soon Ok, an employee at the Jeju Driver’s License Agency (DLA), and Ko Mun Il, a police officer at the same, provided most of the information here. Yun said that the easiest way to drive legally in Jeju is to have an international driver’s license. International licenses are valid for one year only, but many teachers are only in the country for one year. However, if that’s not an option, there are several ways to obtain a local license.
The license agency is off the 1135 Highway in Aewol, about a 15-minute drive from Shin Jeju. It is on the side of the road closer to the mountain, near the Jeju Race Park and the Psyche Butterfly World. To get there by taxi, simply say, “Jeju uen jun myun heo shi hum jang, kah ju seh yo,” (“Jeju Driver’s License Agency, take me please”). Its hours are 8:40 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but each different type of activity has specific time regulations, so take note below for specific information.
Applicants must bring their passport and Alien Registration Card to do anything at the license center. Ko Mun Il said, “Foreigners must remember these things. It is a long way to come if you can’t do anything because you forgot your ID.”
Exchanging a license from elsewhere A driver with a license from another country must go to the Jeju agency with their passport, ARC, valid driver’s license, 3 passport-sized photos and cash for the various fees. From there, the procedure depends on which country the license is from. The DLA homepage: http://www.dla.go.kr/english/02-news/news01.jsp has a list of countries and categories.
Countries with reciprocal agreements If the license was issued in a Category One country, that is, a country that recognizes Korean licenses, then the path to getting a license is fairly easy. This includes most of Europe including the United Kingdom, Ireland and Russia, most of Africa including South Africa, nine Middle Eastern countries, most of South and Central America, Canada, and 24 Asian countries including India, the Philippines and Japan.
If the license is not from Canada, France, Germany or England, an additional certificate verifying the license is required. This can be in English or Korean, but must be obtained from the home country’s embassy to prove the validity of the license. Yun said that this verification is because there are occasionally problems with foreign residents trying to trade fake ID’s for Korean licenses. This is a serious crime and will be investigated and reported to the police.
With a valid license from a Category One country, you must surrender your home license, present all the required documents, and take a physical examination (vision test). Drivers can then leave with a new Korean license for 11,000 won anytime the agency is open.
Countries without an agreement If your home license is from a Category Two country, the home country does not recognize Korean licenses. These countries include the United States, China, New Zealand and Australia. The driver still has to present all the documents (ARC, passport, 3 photos, and 11,000 won) and take the vision test. If the license is not from the United States, embassy verification of the home license is also required.
In addition, a 20-question written test is required for an additional 6,000 won. This test is offered in English and Chinese, is notoriously poorly translated and currently there is no manual in English to study from, so many English speakers fail to achieve the 60 percent score needed to pass. Yun said a new English manual would be out in March 2010 with updated traffic laws, but until then the proven method is to take the test over until a passing score is earned.
A foreign resident who went to take the test in December was told it could only be done at 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays or once a month on Saturday at 9 a.m. The next scheduled Saturday session is on Jan. 23.
Going home Driver’s can retrieve their home country license when they are ready to leave Jeju. They must arrive at the DLA with a plane ticket out of the country to get their surrendered license back. If the old license from the home country has expired, a Korean driver’s license allows the bearer to receive an international license for one year by providing a small photo, a passport and 7,000 won.
Maintaining a valid license in Korea may seem a hassle, but it is certainly easier and less expensive than untangling the mess of up to 3 million won fines and legal proceedings. If you need a license and you don’t have one from another country, or if you can’t obtain embassy certification on your existing license, look for future articles on obtaining a Korean license from scratch, getting a motorcycle license and what to do in case of an accident.
Jeju Driver’s License Agency San 211-4, Sogil-ri, Aewol-eup, Jeju City, Jeju-do, Korea Tel. 064-799-5600, www.DLA.go.kr Call 1577-1120 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for assistance in English.
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