Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Safe Road Happy Drive"

Let's talk getting your Korean Drivers License from scratch.
We're talking all the way from start to finish and beginning to end.

There are three basic reasons to do this:

1.  You can't get to the Embassy because of work.
2.  You don't want to turn over your license from home.
3.  You don't have a license because you're a weirdo like me.

Near the Yongin office there is a coffee shop if you arrive early. So just make a day of it and enjoy yourself.
I have basically three thoughts after completing the process.

First of all:

 Don't be afraid,
it's not a big deal.  

Second of all:

Pay attention to the videos,
they are the most important thing.


It's pretty darn inexpensive, maybe $50 - $75 bucks in the end.

You will take three tests:

1. 40 Question Computer Test
2. Closed Course "I can operate a car" Test
3. "On the open road" Driving Test

Before each test you will watch a video with English subtitles.
These videos have all the answers you need to pass.
Do NOT blow them off.


"Health Exam"

The Paperwork:


  1. It might be confusing at first!  Just relax.  Show people your paperwork and they will show you where to go next.  Sure, nothing is really in English but they get you where you need to go when you show them your paper.
  2. Don't panic if you don't have time to get photos before you go.  They totally have a booth there where you can get it done.
  3. Have your home address ready.  You will have to write it a lot.
  4. The Health Check is nothing much at all:  They went so fast through the eye exam I didn't even have time to answer most of the time but I still seemed to pass.  

Written Exam cattle call.

The Written: 


  1. The English exam is only one Saturday a month at 9:30am at the Yongin branch.
  2. You need to show up about 8:45am - 9:00am to cue.  You'll need to get a number before watching the video and it's busy so don't mess around.
  3. Pay attention to the crazy pre-test video.  It holds the clues to what you need to know.  It's way more important then reading the test book.
  4. Be warned, once you get into the test, the wording can be totally whack.  The previous blog I mentioned gives great advice on how to pass by looking for key words.
  5. The screens can be very hard to read and many of the questions you must select TWO answers and not one.  If you don't select two you can go back and fix it.  You won't automatically get it wrong.

The "I Can Operate A Car" Closed Course: 


  1. You can actually get in trouble for going "to fast" on things as well as "to slow".  We aren't talking about exceeding the speed limit.  I'm talking about checking your wipers fast or your blinkers fast.
  2. Also, when they say "check" something, they don't mean "check it".  They mean do it EXACTLY like this video tells you to do it: CLICK HERE  OR  Put this address in your browser:  (Also, when I say exactly I mean EXACTLY!)
  3. In theory they will show you this video before you take the exam.  However, be warned.  The first time I took the test they did not.  A women stood up and rambled on about stuff for a while and they shipped us out the door.  I failed spectacularly.  After watching the video it was easy breezy.

The "On the Open Road" Driving Exam: 


  1. They will give you a copy of the route when you make your test appointment.   That means you can actually practice the route if you have a car.  I didn't bother since I don't  have a car.  The instructor told be when and where to turn.  He could say left, right and straight - however he kept getting them confused.  This is why the route map helped, I had a good idea of where I was headed so I knew when he said the wrong thing.
  2. You need to pay attention to the points.  There are some big things you can lose a lot of points for like "Checking the parameter of your car before you start".
  3. At first I thought it was "bring a friend" day at the DMV, then I realized you take your test with another person.  One person drives out and the other person drives back.  Pretty efficient actually.
  4. You will have to parallel park.  However, it is done on a closed course with nobody around so the stress is minimal.  The old man who took the test at the same time as me was, literally, the worst parker I could imagine and he got his license just fine.  You've got THREE minutes to get the job done so just take your time.  
  5. There were no surprises.  They don't shout at you to STOP, or tell you to do down some weird road.  It's straight forward and if you know the basics of driving you will be just fine.
  6. Please Read the Blog: Computer - Student - Tester to learn more about the COMPUTERIZED version of this test.

As you can see, 
depending on your availability,
it is possible to complete the testing in one week.


So, don't be scared.
Oh, and I took my test in Yongin!


sgtfrog said...

I'm about to go through all this testing and I'm wondering about something. why did youhave to do a written test and only on saturday? Are you living in a small city?

As far as i know i thought they only did computer testing now ( not written) and that you could take the test any day of the week...

I was going to go tomorrow but now you have me second guessing...

You Are Here said...

Sorry for the last reply, I had a guest in from out of town and went off the grid for a little while. Pretty sure you took your test already, but here is my answer anyway :)

I had to take the test on Saturday because of my work schedule. The written tests takes the longest because you have to do all of the paperwork on that day and I would have made it back in time for work. It's a two hour commute between my home and the DMV.

Also, by "Written" I am just using the generic old person term for all tests on "paper/computer" ;) Yes, it is on the computer.

So, how did you do on your test? Have you completed the full process. I'd be interested in hearing your experience as well.

sgtfrog said...

Hey There,

Thanks for answering. No worries about the late reply.

So Far I did everything but the Final Road Test =(.

The "written" test was easy enough. The safety video had a few answers to specific questions I didn't know about. Other wise I looked through the DVD study guide someone gave me to look at and I found the questions in the Actual tests were almost 100% for this DVD. I didn't study the whole thing but I just quickly read about 30 pages of a 250 page PDF with questions/answers the night before. I passed with an 82%

The Kineung ( the closed course driving test ) I did A few days later. The video you posted here was quite helpful because At the examiners officer they didn't play the video. Just some ajumma Talking and giving tips to manual drivers and then we were assigned cars. I have experience in my own country driving , I just never got my whole license due to the process taking soo long and all the waiting lists... After not driving for about 5 years I decided to take some driving lessons in my own country ( in 2010). and When I did the course test It was the first time behind the drivers seat in 2 years. I just followed The instructions on the GPS. I scored 90% I screwed up on 2 things. THe light switch question was a bit confusing so I skipped the low beams and went into high beams...

NOW, I just need to go in and TAKE the Road test. Which has me worried. I haven't gone driving on a road in 2 years so I'm out of practice and I haven't access to a car to practice.. What's it like taking the Road test? Since you said you didn't have a license back home I'm assuming you were a beginners driver? is that correct? And you passed the road test without any lessons or practice before hand? Do they tell you EXACTLY where to go? like left/right/ straight... they tell you which lane I need to be in?? and Are they strict about marking off points like they are back in the west?

What are the rules here about doing a U turn? Does the light have to be green to do a uturn? or is it just proceed when its clear?

How about School crosswalks with flashy orange light? Do you know if one needs to stop even if its clear and then proceed? OR is it just slowdown /look around and proceed if clear??

How long did the whole road test take you and Any tips I should know about?

Since nov 11th 2012 they changed the road test to a computer calculated one where you don't need to memorize the courses anymore and theres a gps/tablet that gives you verbal commands and apparently they don't have English voices for the test =(. SO I'm hoping the guy sitting in the car can just tell me where to go and when to change lanes... I'm not so much worried about driving per say BUT i'm worried not understanding what I need to do/where to go or Just missing the road I need to turn into and what not... AM I over analyzing this?

sorry for all the questions. I'd very much like to hear more about the actual driving test. Your write up makes it sound like its nothing at all =).

I want to take the test really really soon though. But I've been procrastinating =(. I need to purchase a car before the end of the year too.


Unknown said...

The fact you found the video and watched it makes writing this blog totally worth it :) They did the same thing to me when I went, and didn't show the video for the "closed course" test so I ended up having to take that part twice. It's impossible to pass without seeing the video.

OK The driving test. So I had drove A LOT when for about six years when I was younger... but that was twenty years ago. So I was pretty darn scared before the test since I hadn't driven a car outside that closed course test in about five or six years.

During my test there was a guy with a clipboard who sat beside me and told me to go straight left and right as needed, there was no computer. The only thing the guy could say was left, right, stop and sometimes he got them confused to I had to clarify what he wanted each time.

The U-Turn is tricky. You do it on Red and you don't enter the intersection. There is a dotted line area BEFORE the intersection where you do the uturn when the light is red. This is VERY different from the states and I didn't know it on the test so it's where I lost my points.

As for the "crosswalks with flashy orange light" I don't actually know the answer to this. We stayed only on major roads so I didn't have to deal with this at all, and I never saw a driver's book or driving manual.

The entire road test took me about 30 minutes I think. It was pretty darn fast. They show a video at the beginning that will tell you all the details and the most important things to remember on the test. Pay close attention to this and it will help you not lose points in important areas.

They did not seem to be as strict as the states because the old man who I went with did all sorts of little things wrong (like not having two hands on the wheel, or parking like a jackass) and he still passed.

I'd say you aren't over analyzing it. The reason I think I passed easily is that I did lots of research an planning before I took the test. This helped me feel relaxed and present when I took the test. However, it will be easier than you think.

Plus, if you do fail you can turn around and take it again quickly on the same course and pass it then :) Korea lets you take it as many times as you want.

sgtfrog said...


Thanks for the answers =). I appreciate it.

Yeah, I'm not exactly a beginner driver either. I did "lots" of it 10 years ago. And then most recently ( 2 years ago ) I took some driving lessons. So I'm not worried about driving just worried about not understanding what I need to do when asked =).

Few more questions for you if you don't mind

- Apparently you need to have 10 hours of driving experience before taking the road test. Do they even check / need someone to sign some form saying you did 10 hours of driving ? Sounds like they don't check but Its one of the requirements on their website.

- I'm a bit confused about the Uturn. I know you do it in the dotted lines but I'm not sure when I need to do it. You mentioned during a red light. Do you mean our red light? Or opposite side red light? To me, makes more sense if our light is green, It means the opposite side would be stopped and the road would be clear to do the uturn... Or do you think the uturn can be done anytime aslong as its safe to do so??

- Good to know the guy tells you where to go. But what about lane changes? does he tell you which lane to be in. like will he say " Middle lane" or something. If he only says " Left" that's a bit confusing and I might take that as make an actual left turn. Will he say "U turn next intersection" ?

- Related to lane changes, Did you have any issues with accidently checking your blind spot? Back home we learn to check out blind spots before changing lanes. But in korea they only use their side mirrors... I assume you just followed the video where they tell you to put on the flashers and check the mirrors 3 times?

- How busy were the roads? Were lane changes easy to do or you had to maneuver around traffic?

- As for no computer in the car. They just recently changed the road test. Its now all graded with a tablet and the guy in the car no longer tells you where to go. theres a Korean voice that tells you what to do =(. That's why I'm a bit worried.

Check it out if you want to know what I mean...Its new from Nov 11th 2012 .

THANKS again for taking the time to answer. MUCH appreciated! I hope to take the test next week I think.

Unknown said...

- I was told that I would need a Korean to sign off on me and all sorts of stuff. In the end, nobody cared. I think it might just be too annoying for them to ask us so they let it slide. lol

- I'm a bit confused about the Uturn: Well, that makes two of us. You do it when you're light is red. To me, this seems crazy. However, it is what it is. I just did the uTurn when my instructor yelled, "UTURN!!!!!" It was a little terrifying to be honest. I just whipped a u-y and hoped for the best. Not really the answer you're looking for I'm sure.

- Good to know the guy tells you where to go. But what about lane changes?: He was not specific about lanes. I had memorized the map so I had an idea of where I was headed. He also, kind of, gave me enough advanced notice.

- Related to lane changes, Did you have any issues with accidently checking your blind spot? To tell you the truth, I barely changed lanes. Lane changing terrifies me. That's why I memorized the map. I drove so that I wouldn't have to change lanes except at the end. Then I kept a pace away from the cars around me so I would feel comfortable not looking back. When I did have to change lanes, I prepared for it and did it long before we got to lights or places I would need to turn.

- How busy were the roads? Were lane changes easy to do or you had to maneuver around traffic?: There wasn't much traffic. Not like Italy or downtown Seoul. I was in Yongin in the morning after the commute times. It wasn't packed but there were cars on the road.

- As for no computer in the car. They just recently changed the road test. Its now all graded with a tablet and the guy in the car no longer tells you where to go. ther's a Korean voice that tells you what to do =(. That's why I'm a bit worried: I had thought this was what I was going to have to do as well, and I was equally terrified. It was all folks were talking about online. However, in the end, I never saw it. Not sure why exactly. Maybe because of the language barrier, maybe it wasn't installed last month. Not sure.

Hopefully this helps :)

sgtfrog said...

Yes very helpful. THANKS

- I'm kinda baffled at the Uturn part haha. What if There are too many cars waiting to turn left on a red light and you're waiting far behind the dotted lines and then the light turns green. Are you saying the instructor expects me to wait until the light turns red again before doing the uturn. IF so that makes no sense to me =) I would be blocking traffic.., Interesting to know. I'll look into it some more!

- hmm I didn't make an appointment for the road test yet. Like All other tests I'm just going to drop in and schedule the next available spot. Problem is , there are like 8 road courses so that will be a bit hard to memorize them all. Wish I could call them or make an appointment online but they don't take phone appointments and the website doesn't recognize Foreigners ARC cards( at least it doesn't work with mine). so I guess I wont know the course I'll be doing until the morning of the test. would love to know which one I'll be doing though but theres no way for me to go there and book a test before hand. They are located completely on the opposite side of town and a 1 hour car drive away... =(

- thanks for the tips on lane changing. I'm just hoping there isn't much traffic. In Daejeon they do road tests from 1pm-4pm. I'll most likely go there for the 1pm tests

- I'm pretty sure I'll be doing the test with the new tablet/automated system. When I finished the Kineung driving course the lady wanted to book my driving test that same afternoon and kept saying how everything is automated now with a gps/tablet. Should be interesting. If theres no English available the guy sitting in the seat should tell me what to do ( I hope). The system changed On November 11th.

Once again, Thanks for all the tips/answers. Very helpful. Sorry for hijacking your blog =). It's really hard to find people who did their driving test from scratch in korea .. not only that but people who didn't go through the Driving hagwon route...

I'll let you know if I pass the test or not =p...


Unknown said...

Don't worry, you didn't highjack anything. I wrote this article for the reason you mentioned - nobody talks about taking the test from scratch. I know there are lots of folks us, people who need this information. It's a very scary process to go through in a foreign country where you may/or may not understand the language.

Two of my friends are taking the exam this month. One just passed (but she is Korean) and the other is taking it next week (she is from the US). Neither of them are having to take the computerized exam. So, it appears it's not a countrywide release just yet.

Also, they definitely let things slide for us foreigners based on the report from my Korean friend. I imagine they just don't want to deal with the language barrier.

PLEASE, send me any information you can after you take the computerized version of the test. I want to make sure to have as much information as I can about the driving exam so that people can feel confident about taking the test no matter where or how they have to take it.

sgtfrog said...

Yup, I'll definitely let you know. I'm pretty eager to get this test out of the way and go buy a car =).

As far as I know about the computerized test, People who took the written test/ closed course driving test before November 1st 2012have the choice between taking a computerized test or the old way. If you did everything after NOV 1st 2012 you have to do the computer test. At least, That is what they say here in Daejeon... So If some people do have the option I wouldn't be surprised if they let me do it the old way. We'll see... =)

sgtfrog said...


So... I did the final road Test today! First Time I Drive on the road in 2 years!

I passed it and got my license however unofficially I "failed". BUT the Ajumma instructor gave me a pass because I was actually driving REALLY well. I only lost points on Really really stupid things. Forexample I lost 21( 7 stops lights) points for not going into netral gear everytime there was a red light.... I ended up with 67 points BUT in the end she bumped up the score because Its pretty much the only thing I screwed up. Which isn't really a screw up its just I wasn't aware that was a criteria to watch out for. IN Canada they don't teach us to go to neutral when you're stopped. And I don't think they said anything in the video they played ( I think they only mentioned it for Manual cars). I think the ajossi instructor talked about it after the video but I couldnt understand everything he was saying so I didn't get the memo until after the driving test...

YEs I had to do the test with the new computer method. THANK FULLY they have an English voice and its 100% clear. Tells you exactly where to go and what lanes to switch into. If you know how to drive already just follow the instructions. It's 100% clear.

Not much I can add. My only tips for anyone else doing this test in korea would be to Watch out carefully for Pedestrian lights, Wait for pedestrians to cross the WHOLE road before turning right on red and to not forget to put your gear in Neutral when you're stopped at a red light. As I mentioned above this is where I stupidly and unknowingly lost 21 points ... Glad that I got a very nice ajumma to realize that I drive well but just didn't know about the neutral thing.

The test was basically one large circle course + going around 1 smaller block. It took around 15 minutes to do.

You Are Here said...

Wow, that was all really useful information. THANK YOU! I will make up a follow up blog just about the computerized test. You are in Daejeon right? That might be useful to folks.

This weekend I'm headed to watch a friend take the test as well. She is taking the manual version so that is an entirely different take in the whole things as well.

sgtfrog said...

Yeah, I live in Daejeon. They switched over to computerized testing. If you took the written test before November 1st you can pick if you want to do the test with the new system or the old way. I would recommend doing it with the computer. ITS REALLY CLEAR AND REALLY EASY. The rumours about it being harder are not true. I think people just made up their own idea that it would make things harder.

And yes, Definitely change to neutral gear at long red lights even if you're driving automatic!!! It's not a law but I think they are trying to push this "eco driving" thing to residents here. If you don't switch to neutral you can FAIL the test like I did. Everytime you forget to change to neutral you lose 3 POINTS!!! I lost 21. It's stupid but they really want people to do this. Outside of the test you don't have to go to neutral if you don't want to.... the theory is that going into neutral will burn less gas....

Lukily the Ajumma instructor was really nice and Bumped up my points to make me pass even though I scored below passing grade on the computer. Its up to her to write down manually in her clipboard how many points I have left and If I pass/fail. I certainly was shocked to hear the computer say " YOU HAVE FAILED" haahaha..

Anonymous said...

My licence is about to expire, so I think I'd rather get a Korean licence instead of going through the hassle of renewing it from here. Does Yongin driving center require that I prove the 10 hours of driving experience?

You Are Here said...

Great question. Short answer: No they don't. In fact I haven't met any foreigners who have had to do that. I was told I would need it when I inquired about getting a license but it was never requested and since they wanted to schedule all my exams on back-to-back days it was obvious they didn't care.

Anonymous said...

Sweet. Thanks for that Lanae. I am just gonna go get started with the written test on the weekend. Since I will be in Seoul anyway, I will just go on to the Gangnam testing center, there's probably a higher chance of somebody there speaking some English and the videos could be in English too.

2 questions to calm my nerves:
- somebody mentioned a 250 page pdf to prepare for the written test, where is the link to that.
- I think I will take the written test in Seoul, but for the course/road tests I want to go to a laid-back place closer to home. Directions to the Yongin center?? I live in Suwon so I could go there quite early and get it out of the way

You Are Here said...

Just so you know, everything you need to pass the test will be in the videos as all the videos are have subtitled in English. Watch those carefully and when you take the test look for key words like "safety" "carefully" "slowly" etc.

Um, directions. This link has all the addresses:

Unknown said...

I am looking to try and pass my test soon as I want to rent a car for the upcoming vacation in May. How long does the whole process take from start to being on the road legally? It would be easier to just swap my home driving licence but the hire company wont rent me a car without that... if I have a Korean licence or not. Pretty stupid.

Phil said...

How long did the whoe process take from start to being legally on the road? Car rental places are reluctant to loan me a car without a Korean licence and my home licence so just swapping my licence is out of the question :(

You Are Here said...

Hi Phil, sorry about my delayed response. The time for this test varies depending on were you are in the country. It's possible to get it in a week, but that's if you are lucky and can get appointments right in a row.

It's actually harder to swap your home driver's license now than it is to get the test because the Embassy no longer validates US licenses. They have to be validated in the state of issue.