Travel Guide

Tips for Foreigners Taking the Driver's License Course Test in South Korea

Jonathan
August 3, 2023

Driving can be an exciting and convenient way to get around, but it's important to have the proper training and skills to ensure safety on the road. In South Korea, passing an on-course driving test is a necessary step to obtain a driver's license.


The Driving Course Test (운전면허기능시험) is a practical exam in South Korea that assesses a person's driving skills. It's an important step to get a driver's license. The test evaluates how well someone can drive on the road, including maneuvers, intersections, and parking. It takes place on a special course that imitates real driving situations. The goal is to ensure that drivers are prepared and able to handle various challenges on the road in South Korea.


The Driving Course Test in South Korea is a special exam where there is no instructor in the car with you. Instead, the test cars have a system that uses automated messages to give you instructions. The automated system is available in Korean, English, Chinese, and Vietnamese. The instructions are easy, like "turn on the emergency lights." After hearing the command, wait for a beep noise and do what it says. If you complete the task before the beep noise, you will lose points.


If this is your first time driving, consider attending driving academy. Some driving academies in the Seoul area even offer classes in English!


Type 1 (1종) and Type 2 (2종) Licenses in South Korea


A type 1 license (1종) covers a broader range, including larger vehicles, manual (stick shift) cars, buses, and special vehicles, while a type 2 license (2종) focuses more on smaller vehicles, including automatic passenger cars, two-wheelers, and electric bikes.


Main Differences between Type 1 and Type 2 Driver's Licenses in Korea


Type 1 License (1종 category):

  • 대형 (Daehyeong): Light vehicles, vehicles up to 12 tonnes, construction machines, and special vehicles.
  • 보통 (Botong): Manual (stick shift) cars, trucks up to 12 tonnes, buses with a seating capacity of 14 people (excluding the driver), and all vehicles from the 2nd category.
  • 소형 (Sohyeong): Three-wheeled vehicles.
  • 특수 (Teuksu): Special construction machines, special large trailers, and special small trailers.

Type 2 License (2종 category):

  • 소형 (Sohyeong): Similar to Type 1, it includes automatic passenger cars, light vehicles, any special vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes, vehicles up to 4 tonnes, and vehicles up to 10 passengers.
  • 보통 (Botong): Two-wheel vehicles, mopeds (125cc and under) and electric bikes.

Korean Driving Course Map

The Driving Course Test: 10 Steps


The Driving Course Test can be broken down into 10 easy-to-follow steps.


At any time during the course, the ‘돌발’ emergency signal will sound off. When this happens, stop the car and turn on your emergency lights and wait for the confirmation break.


1. Adjusting the Driver's Seat & Fastening the Seat Belt

  • Move the seat and backrest for comfort and easy reach of the brake and accelerator.
  • Put on your seat belt properly before starting the test.

2. Maneuverability

  • Start the car by pressing the brake turning the ignition.
  • Follow the specific automatic steps to turn on and off headlights, blinkers, and wipers.
  • Always complete the commands after the beep noise.
  • Put the gear in Drive or Neutral, then into Park.

3. Departure

  • Release the side emergency brake (failure to release the emergency break before departure will result in an automatic failure).
  • Put the gear in Drive.
  • Turn on the left blinker.
  • Wait for the "-Departure" message, release the brake, and start driving.
  • Turn off the left blinker when you hear a beeping sound.

4. Obstacle Section “The Hill”

  • Press the gas slightly and use the brakes to stop the vehicle in the square off section on the hill.
  • Wait for 3 seconds and gently press the gas to drive over the hill.
  • Control your speed using the brakes after going down the hill.

5. Intersection: Turning Left and Going Straight

  • Approach the intersection carefully and stop if necessary.
  • Wait for the traffic light to change, usually around 10 seconds.
  • Make a turn and keep driving straight.

6. Perpendicular Parking “T Parking”

  • Find an empty parking space and follow the given method for parking.
  • Align the car correctly using visual markers and steer accordingly.
  • Make sure the car is parked straight in the assigned spot.
  • After parking, pull up the emergency break and wait for the confirming beep noise.

7. Intersection: Turning Right and Turning Left

  • Follow the designated paths for making right and left turns at intersections.

8. Acceleration Course

  • Gradually accelerate and maintain a speed of 20 kilometers per hour.
  • Apply the brakes when necessary.

9. Exit

  • Activate the right blinker to show that you want to exit.
  • Cross the finish line to complete the driving test.

10. Conclusion

  • Finishing the on-course driving test marks the end of the evaluation.
  • Take a moment to relax and think about the experience.
  • Remember to review and practice these steps to improve your driving skills.

If you fail the driving test, you may re-take it after 3 days.


Point System and Deductions (Pass: 80/100 points)


Basic Operation Scoring Items:


a) Gear Shifting - 5 points

  • If the examinee fails to shift gears (including clutch pedal operation) as instructed by the examiner when the parking brake is in a complete stop state.

b) Headlight Operation - 5 points

  • If the examinee fails to operate the headlights as instructed by the examiner when in a stop state. (One deduction for upward and downward headlight operation, each tested once)

c) Turn Signal Operation - 5 points

  • If the examinee fails to operate the turn signals as instructed by the examiner when in a stop state.

d) Front Windshield Wiper Operation - 5 points

  • If the examinee fails to operate the front windshield wipers as instructed by the examiner when in a stop state.

*Note: Only a few of the basic operation scoring items (a) to (d) will be randomly tested.


Basic Driving Scoring Items:


a) Lane Compliance - 15 points

  • If during the assigned tasks, the vehicle's wheels touch or cross the center line, lane markings, or road edge lines.

b) Emergency Stop in Unexpected Situations - 10 points

  • If the examinee fails to stop within 2 seconds when the emergency signal is activated.
  • If the examinee fails to activate the hazard lights within 3 seconds after stopping.
  • If the examinee fails to turn off the hazard lights when starting.

c) Stop and Start on an Incline - 10 points

  • If the vehicle moves back more than 50 centimeters after stopping within the designated stop detection area on an incline.

d) Left or Right Turn - 5 points

  • If the examinee fails to activate the turn signals during a lane change.

e) Acceleration Course - 10 points

  • If the examinee fails to exceed 20 kilometers per hour in the acceleration zone.

f) Signalized Intersection - 5 points

  • If the examinee stops at an intersection without reason for more than 20 seconds.

g) Right-Angle Parking - 10 points

  • If the wheels of the vehicle touch the boundary line.
  • If the parking brake is not engaged.
  • If the specified time (120 seconds) is exceeded (additional 10-point deduction for every subsequent 120 seconds).

h) Turn Signal Operation - 5 points

  • If the examinee fails to activate the turn signal when starting or ending the test.

i) Engine On State Maintenance - 5 points

  • If during the tasks from a) to h) and j), the examinee fails to maintain the engine in an on state or if the engine rotates at over 4,000 RPM.

j) Compliance with Designated Time (Maintaining Designated Speed) - 3 points

  • For tasks from (a) to (j), if the examinee exceeds the designated time by 5 seconds or more every 5 seconds.
  • If the examinee exceeds 20 kilometers per hour in the entire section, excluding the acceleration zone.

Passing Criteria and Automatic Failure


To pass the driving test, examinees must obtain a score of 80 or higher out of 100, taking into account deductions based on the criteria for each test item.


However, the following conditions will result in automatic failure regardless of the score obtained:


a) Failure to wear a seat belt from the beginning to the end of the inspection.


b) Causing a safety accident or any contact of the vehicle's wheels with the boundary lines.


c) Failure to follow the instructions or control of the examiner, or difficulty conducting the

test properly due to alcohol consumption, fatigue, or the influence of drugs, marijuana, or other substances.


d) Failure to start within 30 seconds after the starting signal without any special reason.


e) Failure to stop on an incline, failure to enter the garage and touch the confirmation line during right-angle parking, failure to shift gears on the acceleration course, or failure to attempt or properly execute any of the test courses.


f) Exceeding 30 seconds to pass the stop zone on an incline or being pushed back more than 1 meter in the stop zone on an incline.


g) Violating traffic signals or crossing the stop line with the front bumper at a signalized intersection.


Read more: How To Get Your Driver's License in South Korea