▲ There are many bureaucratic hoops to jump through before getting a first license in Korea, but once you do so it will be valid for seven to nine years. Photos by Kim Gyong Ho
The requirements for getting a driver’s license in Jeju are confusing when transferring an existing license from another country, but when trying to get a first license the confusion more than doubles. But, if you intend to drive any motorized vehicle while in Korea, even a 50 cc scooter, you must have a Korean driver’s license to avoid the penalty for driving without a license: a 3 million won fine, visa complications and possible deportation or up to one year in jail.
If you don’t have a valid license from another country, common among those who live in places with stellar public transportation, you have to jump through a number of hoops in order to legally drive in Korea. These include attending a driver’s safety class, passing a written test, attending driving school, passing a student driver test, logging road hours with a qualified teacher and passing the final driver’s license test. Yun Soon Ok and Ko Mun Il from the Driver’s License Agency provided information help English speakers get legally licensed.
Driver’s safety class To start the process, you must take a driver’s safety course. Applicants must arrive at the Jeju Driver’s License Agency at 9 a.m. on weekdays (except Wednesdays) to take the three-hour class that starts at 9:30 a.m. The class costs 12,000 won and is taught in Korean, but an English manual is available for individual study.
Written test Once the class is completed, the driver’s written test can be taken at 1 p.m. This is a special test for first time drivers. To sign up, present your alien registration card, passport, two photos (3 x 4 cm) and 5,000 won, and pass an eye exam. Only 100 people are permitted to take the test per day, so if going on a different day than your safety class, be sure to sign up early in the day or in advance. The test starts at 1:30 p.m. and applicants have 50 minutes to answer 40 questions. After completion, the tests are marked and paperwork is issued. Expect to be there until at least 3 pm.
Driving school Everyone is required to attend a mandatory driver’s education course. There are many driving schools on the island that offer the required class. None offer the course specifically in English, but the English speaking DMV employees can point you to an English-friendly school. However, you may need to provide a translator. This course generally costs 15,000 won and lasts at least three hours.
Student license test Once the applicant has completed the introductory driver’s course and has a certificate in hand, and of course a passport and ARC card, they can apply for the driving test. Applicants must apply in advance for an appointment with all necessary documents and 15,000 won. The test is offered weekdays at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. during the non-holiday schedule. Call for changes during holidays. Once the driving test is completed, a student driver’s license is issued which permits practice on the road.
Experience At this point, the driver needs road experience, which they can get through driving with a friend or attending a driving school. If a driving school is attended, 15 hours of road practice are needed. The advantage of studying at a school is that there are a wide variety of class times to meet any schedule. This course usually costs between 60,000 and 90,000 won. If studying independently, the applicant must log 10 road hours with a driver who’s had a license for more than two years and display “practice driver” signs in the windows of the car.
Final test The final driving test can be taken through the driving school or at the DLA. You must apply in advance with all your driving credentials and documents to receive an appointment between 8:40 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Take and pass the test and you are on your way with a Korean license good for between seven and nine years, depending on your test score.
If a first time driver wishes to use their Korean license in their home country, they can upgrade to an international license good for one year by showing their passport, and Korean license, providing a passport-size photo and paying 7,000 won.
Motorcycle license Jeju’s long stretches of beautiful coastal and curving mountain roads are all too enticing to those who love to ride. Simple motorbikes are popular for those who tool around town, but those who crave more power need an actual motorcycle.
If you ride a motorcycle in Jeju, which is defined as a motorbike with an engine over 125 cc, then you need to get a Korean motorcycle license. The fine for driving a motorcycle without a license is the same as driving a car: a fine of up to 3 million won or up to one year in prison.
Driving without a license also invalidates any insurance coverage and a driver may be financially liable for any damages inflicted in an accident to another person, car or property, so be smart and safe by getting the proper license.
The local authorities will not accept any previously acquired license, including an inter-national motorcycle license from another country, so everyone needs to qualify for a Korean motorcycle license locally. The first step is to get a standard Korean drivers license, then sign up for the motorcycle driving test. The Driver’s License Agency provides the motorcycle you drive and presents a driving course that is notoriously difficult.
The driving test is normally offered on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month at 2:30 p.m. Applicants must be there by 2:00 p.m. with a Korean license, 2 small color photos and 6,000 won. In an upcoming issue, we will present a first-hand account of the experience.
The schedules change during holidays, so check with the Jeju Driver’s License Agency at 1577-1120 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday for clarification. An English speaker is available upon request, although you first have to negotiate an automated system in Korean. More information is also available at http://www. dla.go.kr.
The Jeju Driver’s License Agency (DLA) is off the 1135 Highway in Aewol, about a 15-minute drive from Shin Jeju.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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