*This is only for AMERICANS. I don’t know the steps for other foreign nationals.

**THIS website is the Korean driver’s license site in English with lots of useful information.

Okay! Let me tell you, not only is this going to be a long process, but it will zap all of your energy and a lot of time and way too much money (I don’t know who to blame, but I’m pretty sure it lies upon the shoulders of the U.S. Embassy).  HOWEVER, you want to get this taken care of if you want to be a legal driver here, and the consequences of getting caught WITHOUT a valid Korean driver’s license are not pretty – or so I’ve heard. You’ll also need a driver’s license if you want to register a scooter or other vehicle; it is illegal now to not do so, even with a 50cc scooter without papers, so just do it. Don’t play the foreigner card, it’s annoying and another reason Koreans are getting sick of all of us.

STEP ONE: MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH THE EMBASSY

Before you ever step foot into a driver’s license office, you need an affidavit from the U.S. Embassy which verifies that your U.S. issued driver’s license is legitimate. This costs $50 (US) and I think that’s a rip-off – especially since Canadians don’t have to do this step at all. But here is how you go about doing it:

Click HERE to visit the Busan Consulate Office website. This will tell you the dates when the U.S. Embassy will be in Busan. From there, you will need to call them and set up an appointment. You’ll be talking to an American when you call, so don’t worry about having to find a translator. They usually come for two days every few months – one day they are open in the afternoon and the next day they are open in the morning.

You will need:

  • your U.S. passport
  • your U.S. issued driver’s license
  • $50 (or the equivalent in KRW)
  • an affidavit form (but don’t worry about this too much – they will have forms available there and will have an example form of exactly what you need to write on it)

Click on the map to be taken to the Consulate website with directions to the Busan office.

On the day of your appointment, you will go to the Lotte Gold Rose Building, which is next to Busan City Hall. You can take the subway to City Hall stop (시창역) and use exit 1. Keep going straight to the corner, and cross the street (going in the same direction – away from exit 1) to the Lotte Gold Rose Building.

The tricky part from there is to find the correct door. It ISN’T the main front door that opens directly out to the main road. Instead, turn right after you cross the street and find the side door on the side of the building facing City Hall. It’s the door with an ATM machine right outside (that ATM is a good place to grab the cash you are going to need, if you didn’t bring enough with you). Then go up to the 6th floor, go left out of the elevator, and you’ll find the consulate office on the left side of the hallway. You have to tell the guard when you arrive and what time your appointment is, and then you must wait outside until your appointed time.

Once you are inside (you have to go through security and leave electronics with them until you leave), go to the couches where some affidavit forms will be waiting. You should be able to find one that has an example of what to write. You can fill it out, then pay the woman at the desk. Then you will have to meet with another person who will chat with you, check your driver’s license, and make you swear that the information on the affidavit is true. Then he’ll sign and seal the affidavit, and you’re good to go!

2.  GO TO THE DRIVER’S LICENSE OFFICE

HERE are the locations located around the country.

This part was difficult because first you have to find one. I know of two.

  1. 북부운전면허시험장 is located in Sasang-gu between Deokpo (덕포, exit 3) Station and Modeok (모덕, exit 1) Station. From either station and exit, just continue straight for about 2-3 blocks. You’ll see a big sign hanging above the road that will tell you when to turn. You’ll walk down an alley half a “block” until you get to a big building that takes up the rest of the block.
  2. 남부운전면허시험장 is located near KSU/Pukyeong University. I haven’t been there so can’t give specific directions, but my co-teacher said that you could get out of the subway at KSU Station and grab a taxi. Just write that Korean name on a piece of paper and there shouldn’t be a problem. My co-teacher suggested this one because there will probably be some English speakers there. There weren’t any at the one I went to in Sasang-gu.

Both are open from 9AM-6PM daily. The location in Sasang-gu is supposedly open on Saturdays from 9-11; the location in KSU is only open one Saturday/month, but from 9-1.

What you need to bring: 

  • U.S. license
  • Embassy affidavit
  • passport
  • Alien Registration Card
  • 3 color 3x4cm photos
  • 17,000 won

Once you get there, well… take a number. At the location I went to there was a foreigner window, but the person there didn’t speak any English. However, I got to bypass the lines from there on out and go straight to her. Here’s what I had to do.

  1. I gave the woman all of the above mentioned documents, and she told me to sit down. After about 10-15 minutes, she’d called my school to have them translate that I had to come back the next day, but that I could do some of the things I needed to that day. Actually, I still don’t know why that is, but whatever.
  2. I was taken to do the physical test. That cost 4,000 won (I think). I had to have my eyes checked for color blindness, and also had to read a chart on a wall to check for vision.
  3. I went back to the foreigner officer. She had me sign some things. I don’t know what.
  4. The next day I came back at the time they had specified. They had taken care of some more paperwork, and I had to sign some more forms.
  5. I was sent to another officer who was in charge of adding some stamps to the form, as well as trying to fit my extremely long name onto the new driver’s license card. After trying to explain to him which parts of my name had to stay on (my first name, at least one of my last names) they finally made my name “Hope Athay Kimberlya” Yes, Kimberlya. I told them they could take Ann out completely, but they really wanted to give as much of it to me as possible. This cost 6,000 or 7,000, I can’t remember.
  6. This guy sent me upstairs to the TESTING CENTER. The picture above and  THIS page on their site that says that we do not have to take the knowledge test (it’s near the bottom), so maybe consider printing it off and having a Korean friend print off the Korean page, highlighting this, too. However, since nobody spoke English there, I didn’t know how to explain that. Instead, I thought I’d just take the test. Unfortunately, the English version of the test has a lot of broken English and was VERY DIFFICULT to understand. It also covered various Korean laws that I didn’t know about, and asked questions about how far behind different kinds of vehicles you should stay – but in the metric system, so again, I was a little clueless. I was positive I had failed my test, but somehow I did pass it. The test was 20 questions on a computer program, and you get 30 minutes to complete it.
  7. After that, I got a stamp from the officer in the testing room. I took that downstairs back to the foreigner officer, and she had me sit for about 15 minutes. After that, finally, I was given my new license.

 

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