Getting your drivers license in Busan, Korea
I recently went through the stressful experience of obtaining a drivers license in Busan, without trading in my US driver’s license. If you want to trade in your driver’s license, that process is explained on another blog.
If the DMV is one of the most hated places in the US, the Nambu driving center (남부운전면허시험장) near Kyungsung University is one of the most hated places in Korea. No one spoke English and hardly anyone was kind or patient with me. I’m going to provide you with as much information as possible, in hopes that it helps someone, because it definitely would have helped me.
I tried calling beforehand to make an appointment, but they told me that wasn’t possible and that there would be no English service available for me. They told me to arrive at 9:20 a.m. on any weekday to start the process. Bring 60,000₩ in cash and three smaller than passport size photos.
I walked there from KSU, exit 5, following directions on my iPhone. It took about 20 minutes, and the only tricky part was taking a left at this GS25.
Or, you could just take a taxi from the KSU subway.
You’ll get dropped off here:
Enter the first building on your left.
Start filling out some papers in Korean at 9:20 a.m. Glue two smaller than passport size photos onto your paperwork. Someone may help you in Korean.
Pay 5,000₩ to take an eye exam.
Then, go to the second floor and fill out another form. You’ll scan your left thumb into a machine. You’ll be given a plastic card with a number. Go to the room on your left and sit it in the desk with your number. Then, an employee will come into the room and have you go scan your card and left thumb into a machine, like so:
A safety video will start around 9:45 a.m. with no English subtitles. Another employee will lecture in Korean after the video finishes. You’ll be directed to scan your thumb once more and then turn in your plastic card. They will give you a form to take to the next building.
Be sure to grab a number for the left side of the lines.
Once your number is called, they’ll take your form and put some more stamps on it. You’ll pay 7,500₩ and then proceed to the PC room on the third floor for a written test in poorly translated, broken English.
You’ll have 50 minutes to answer 40 questions. I had absolutely no idea how to answer questions regarding the penalty point system, “invisible” children, or stopping involving the metric system. Lots of leeway for incorrect answers. I recommend just picking the no-brainer safe answers and you’ll probably pass.
Then, go back to the first floor and take a number on the left side again. I was here around 11:45 a.m. and they scheduled an appointment for my driving test at 1 p.m. that day. It cost 18,5000₩.
So, walk outside to another building where you hand someone your paper. They’ll tell you a number in Korean. Mine was 22.
Watch another safety video. Then, take a driving test on the designated course.
This is a bit stressful, as there is no one in the car with you, and the directions are in Korean. Basically, the speakers in the car talk to you, directing to you do a number of things, such as turn on the lights, use your blinkers, drive, stop, use the emergency brake, etc. You’ll have to do them within 5 seconds after the car directs you to do so in Korean.
Finally, go back into the building to get another number, and then talk to booth three. Pay 3,500₩. Then, pay 25,000₩ for the on-road driving test. These may be scheduled later in the day, if you’re lucky, or the next week.
Keep in mind that you can amuse yourself by charging your phone:
…or consuming liquid confidence from the vending machine:
I recommend arriving to the on-road driving test earlier than they tell you to, as they always seem to start the safety video early. This one has English subtitles though! And, they detail the driving test and the four possible courses you could experience. Go to this room by the bathroom:
After the safety video, you’ll get in a car with the employee and one or two other people taking the driving test. When it’s your turn to drive, the employee will sit in the front with you, but the car speakers will direct you where to drive. Testing will include completing a U-turn and parallel parking. Don’t feel bad if you don’t pass the first or even second time, as I have been told that that is common in Korea. You’ll pay 25,000₩ to retake the test.
I had points deducted on my test for not putting the car in neutral when it was idling, using my turn signal too frequently (such as for changing lanes), and waiting too long to complete a U-turn. Seemed kind of silly to me, as I have been driving without incident in the US for ten years, but I’ll laugh it off. Now, I have my Korean drivers license for ten years!