Applying for a Korean Driver’s License

Category : Surviving in Korea
Nov 28, 2014

Despite the bumper to bumper traffic jams 24/7 and world renowned public transportation systems, you might still want to be able to drive in Korea.  To do so, you’ll need an international driver’s license or a Korean driver’s license. If you plan to live in Korea for at least one year it is beneficial to apply for a Korean driver’s license rather than use an international driver’s license.


The Korean Driver’s License


By applying for a Korean driver’s license, you are legally able to operate and buy a motorized vehicle. There are two ways a foreigner can get a Korean driver’s license: you can exchange your home country license for a Korean driver’s license or you start from scratch, take the tests and become a certified Korean driver.


About your New Korean License!

  1. As of 2011 it is valid for 10 years.
  2. You will receive a level 2 regular Korean license (standard automatic vehicles) if you exchange your license.
  3. You can choose between level 1 (standard manual vehicles) or level 2 if you complete the full licensing process.
  4. You have up to one year to renew your license when it expires.
  5. You need over 40 driving penalty points to have your license suspended
  • Speeding= 30 points
  • Drunk driving= 100 points
  • Signal violations= 15 points


Exchanging your Home License for a Korean License


For the most part, you will easily be able to exchange your home license. It is the fastest and easiest way to be a legal driver in Korea. Exchanging your license is in some ways still a temporary license and is a literal exchange of licensing cards. The exchange requires that you give the DLA the physical copy of your home license. Then when you leave Korea your home license will be returned to you when you give the DLA your Korean license. You may want to consider becoming a certified Korean driver if you are living in Korea permanently or for a long-extended period.


The Process

If you are a citizen from an ‘acknowledged driver’s license country’ (see listing below), you must go in person to the Korean Driver’s License Authority (DLA) office in your district:

  1. Fill out a form.
  2. Take a short health test.
  3. Take a short aptitude test.
  4. Give them your foreign license and required documents


For those NOT from ‘acknowledged driver’s license countries’ the process is the same except you must also:

  1. Write a short written theory exam to ensure that your road safely knowledge is sound.


Don’t forget to bring (in hard copies):

  • Your full valid foreign driver’s license
    • It must be translated into English or Korean if in another language.
    • The issue date and validity period must be stated on the license.
    • If the issue date is not written on the license a letter from your home licensing bureau verifying the certification period must be included.
    • If your foreign license is expired you will not be able to exchange it.
  • Your passport
  • Your Alien Registration Card (ARC)
  • 3 color passport photos(3cm x 4cm)
  • A letter from your country’s consulate confirming the validity of your home license.
  1. Countries not requiring a consulate confirmation letter are: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Spain, and the UK.
  • 10,000KRW for acknowledged country citizens, 16,000KRW for others


à Check: DLA’s process information for exchanging a foreign license.


The following are the countries whose driver’s licenses are ‘acknowledged’ by the Korean government:


Acknowledged Countries


Afghanistan, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongol, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Vietnam

The Americas

Antigua Barbuda, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Commonwealth of Dominique, Rep. of Dominique, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Granada, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent Grenadines, Uruguay, USA(Maryland, Virginia, Washington, Massachusetts, Texas, Florida, Oregon, Michigan, Idaho)

★For Oregon and Idaho, you must take a simple written exam.


Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cypress, Czech Rep., Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine

The Middle East

Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait , Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen


Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Rep., Chad, Comoro, Congo, Dem. Rep. of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Basau, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tunisia, Zambia, Zimbabwe


Obtaining a Korean Driver’s License


If you do not have a license from your home country, you will of course be required to learn to drive here in order to get a driver’s license. As well, if for some reason you don’t wish to exchange your home license, you will need to go through the whole licensing process. As mentioned, getting a license here is a permanent certification which only requires renewal every 10 years. It’s the best option if you plan to stay for the long haul!


The Process

It is compulsory to take some written and applied tests to prove that you are a competent driver. With that said, the process is incredibly simple and you can come away a fully licensed driver in about a week, ready to apply all your well honed skills to the busy streets of Korea.


There are seven basic steps to become a driver in Korea. They are completed in the order presented below.


à Check: DLA’s driving test process


  1. The Traffic Safety Education Course
    1. The course takes one hour to complete.
    2. You must take the course at least one hour prior to taking the written exam.
    3. The course is required for first time drivers.
    4. Register online or by calling your DLA district office (you can register for the course and the written exam at the same time).
    5. Bring your ARC.
    6. The course is free.


  1. The Health Check
    1. The health check can be done at all regional DLA examination offices.
    2. It can also be done at most general hospitals.
    3. It costs 5,000KRW at the DLA; hospital fees differ.


  1. The Written Exam
    1. Before you take the written exam, you must complete the traffic safety education course (step 1).
    2. The written exam is a computerized exam consisting of 40 questions.
    3. You must bring your ARC, the completed application form, 3 color passport photos (3cm x 4cm), and 6,000KRW for a level 1 or 2 regular license.
    4. You need 60 points to continue training for a level 2 license.
    5. You need 70 points to continue training for a level 1 license.
    6. If you fail the written test, you can retake it the next day.
    7. You must pass the written exam within one year of taking the traffic education safety course.


  1. The Driving Course Test
    1. You must pass the driving course test within one year of taking the written exam.
    2. The test is an in-car aptitude test covering non-moving and moving skills.
    3. It is completed in a closed off space designed only for testing at the DLA office.
    4. You must bring your ARC, the completed application form, and 15,000KRW for level 1 and 2 regular licenses.
    5. You need 80 points to receive a temporary license for level 1 or 2 regular licenses.
    6. If you fail the driving course test, you can retake the test after three days.


  1. Your Temporary License
    1. You must pass the driving course test to receive a temporary license.
    2. Your temporary license is required to practice for the on-road driving test.
    3. You must bring your ARC, the application form and 3,000KRW.
    4. Your temporary license is valid for one year.
    5. At some point during that year you must take the on-road driving test or start the whole process again.


  1. The On-Road Driving Test
    1. The exam is a 5km road exam which tests all aspects of driving aptitude (including but not limited to driving, lane changing, stopping, turning, parking, merging, and reversing)
    2. The examiner deducts points for errors starting from 100 points.
    3. You need 70 points to pass.
    4. You must bring your ARC, the completed application, your temporary license, and 21,000KRW.
    5. If you fail the on-road driving exam, you can retake the test after three days.


  1. Your Final License Issued
    1. After passing all of the steps above, you may apply for your final license.
    2. You must bring your ARC, the completed application form, 3 color passport photos (3cm x 4cm) and 6,000KRW.
    3. You must have a legal driver’s license to drive in Korea


Follow this chart to understand what you need to do to get fully licensed in Korea (you must pass each step to move on):











Korean Driver’s License Authority (DLA) Inquires

  1. Call Center: 1577-1120
  2. For All Locations across Korea: website
  3. DLA Homepage



Major DLA Examination Centers

For a complete list and more information please see the official website.


District Examination Offices

Customer Service Phone Number





52, Tancheongil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul



727, Dong 1(il)-ro, Nowon-gu, Seoul





San 45-3, Yongho-dong, Nam-gu, Busan





1076-1, Taejeon-dong ,Buk-gu, Daegu






512-12, Gojan-dong, Namdong-gu, Incheon






San 23-35, Geumo-dong, Uijeongbu-si, Gyeonggi-do





95-5, Wa-dong, Danwon-gu, Ansan-si, Gyeonggi-do




872-7, Manjong-ri, Hojeo-myeon, Wonju-si, Gangwon-do




433-3, Sancheon-ri, Sinbuk-eup, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do







Chungju-si, Chungcheongbuk-do





364-2,Daebyeol-dong, Dong-gu, Daejeon





1030-5, Mundoek-ri, Ocheon-eup, Nam-gu, Pohang-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do





532-1, Cheonjeon-ri, Sangbuk-myeon, Ulju-gun, Ulsan





San 211-4, Sogil-ri, Aewol-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do

Tags : Driving. License. Korea.

Lindsey lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea for over 5 years. While there, she dabbled in different areas of work and explored the culture. She spent time teaching elementary students, business English to adults and high school students about college preparation. She also studied Korean, wrote blogs and tasted as many foods as she possibly could including fermented skate fish. Over the years, Lindsey developed a love for Korea and the culture. She is keen to share her knowledge of Korea with others and she will always consider Korea a second home.