I decided a couple months ago that if I could help it, I didn't want to renew my international license again for next year. It's not that it's a difficult process in Canada--more so just an annoying one because it needs to be renewed every year. Plus, the international license is not the most useful in my situation. When I travel, I don't rent vehicles to drive in foreign countries, so it is not an asset in that regard. As for in Korea, it is unclear as to whether or not it is valid for an extended period of time (I have heard that they only accept it for like 3 months or something. I don't know. It's rather confusing). In addition, to be valid, you need to keep your passport and your original license with you while driving. I rather not worry about accidentally losing one of those other documents while out and about.
So, I decided that I would embrace the challenge to get my Korean Driver's License.
I started looking into the process during the winter months and then heard that a couple of my coworkers were doing the same. If you live on Jeju and are thinking of getting your license as a foreigner, this website lays out everything very nicely, and here I'll go over some details that stuck with me. (Make sure to bring 3 passport sized photos with you when you go!)
It was surprisingly easier in someways and also more challenging in others. Like in Canada, there are three tests before your full license. The first one is a written test and the last one is a driving test on a designated course. That is about where the similarities end.
1. The written test. Before writing the test, you need to watch a 1 hour educational video. I don't know if it's different on the mainland, but the video I saw was like a game show with a host, an audience and three experts. Interspersed between the questions were dramatizations of this couple driving around a city. A little cheesy, but at least the video wasn't borrowing. I think that there is also a book that Koreans read with more information, but I don't know if there is an english copy anywhere. Meaning, I went in a little blind to the test and had to guess some answers based on what I have seen while driving around Korea. (Plus, the english questions were not always perfectly clear). Still, it wasn't too bad and if you've learned how to drive in your own country, you should be okay.
2. The second test a functions test. Can you start the car? Can you turn on the headlights? The turn signal? The wipers? Can you do an emergency stop? You do this test on a course beside the center and everything is measured by a computer. A small screen tells you what to do at each stage and then you need to wait for the timer to start before you begin. The hard part about this test is really the timer. Don't start UNTIL the timer starts counting otherwise the computer won't register the action.
3. The driving test. Again, during the third test, part of the test is measured by a computer. The administrator is in the car with you (along with another testee--one of you drives out, the other drives back), but there is also a GPS monitoring the car's movement and speed. Like in Canada, you need to do a bit on the motorway, lane changes and turns, and a parallel park. Depending on your route, you might also do a U-Turn. And like anywhere, really, the traffic will depend on the time of day.
All said and done, that's it. A few minutes after finishing my third test, they handed me my license. Valid for 10 years. Ha.
I feel very much accomplished. =D
If you have any questions about the tests, please comment below and I will do my best to help.
To my friends and family back home, one week more!
Love and Hugs.