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South Korea – Driving

South Korea is a country known for its well-developed transportation system, including its highways and public transportation. However, driving in South Korea can be a challenge for foreigners due to differences in driving culture and regulations. In this article, we will discuss the road safety, driving rules, equipment requirements, and parking regulations in South Korea.

Road Safety in South Korea

South Korea has made significant efforts to improve road safety in recent years. The country has implemented a number of measures, including stricter penalties for drunk driving, speed limits, and mandatory seat belt laws. Despite these measures, road accidents still occur, and it is important to take precautions when driving in South Korea.

The quality of roads in South Korea is generally good, especially in urban areas. However, some rural roads may be narrow and winding, which can be challenging for inexperienced drivers. The local driving standard is generally good, with South Korean drivers being disciplined and cautious on the road.

Equipment Requirements

When driving in South Korea, there are a few equipment requirements that you should be aware of. All cars must have a reflective triangle, a first aid kit, and a fire extinguisher. Additionally, it is mandatory to wear seat belts in both the front and back seats of the car.

Road Rules

Side of the Road

In South Korea, vehicles drive on the right side of the road.

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Speed Limits

Speed limits in South Korea vary depending on the location and type of road. In urban areas, the speed limit is typically 60 km/h (37 mph) and 80 km/h (50 mph) on highways. However, some roads may have lower or higher speed limits, so it is important to pay attention to road signs.

Right of Way

South Korea follows the standard international rules for right of way. Vehicles approaching a junction or intersection must yield to vehicles already in the intersection. When turning onto a road, vehicles must yield to oncoming traffic.

Other Rules

Some other important rules to keep in mind while driving in South Korea include:

  • Using headlights is mandatory when driving in tunnels.
  • It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving, unless it is hands-free.
  • It is mandatory to carry a valid driving license, vehicle registration, and insurance documents while driving.

Road Signs and Traffic Lights

South Korea uses standard international road signs and traffic signals. Some important road signs to be aware of include:

  • Stop sign: A red octagon with “STOP” in both English and Korean.
  • Yield sign: A triangular sign with a red border and “YIELD” in both English and Korean.
  • No parking sign: A red circle with a slash through a car.
  • Speed limit sign: A white rectangle with black lettering indicating the speed limit.

Traffic lights in South Korea follow the standard international color scheme of red, yellow, and green. Some traffic lights may also have a flashing green light, which indicates that a left turn is allowed, but drivers must yield to oncoming traffic.

Traffic Information

South Korea has an excellent transportation infrastructure, and there are several ways to obtain up-to-date traffic information. The Korean National Police Agency operates a traffic information hotline (Tel: 1544-1120) that provides real-time information on traffic conditions and road closures. Additionally, several smartphone applications provide real-time traffic updates and information on road conditions.

Parking Regulations

Parking in South Korea can be a challenge, especially in large cities. There are various parking rules and restrictions in place to ensure the smooth flow of traffic and prevent congestion. Here are some important things to keep in mind when parking in South Korea:

  • Parking is prohibited on both sides of the road in areas with a solid yellow line. However, parking is allowed on one side of the road where there is a dotted yellow line.

  • You cannot park within 5 meters of an intersection or pedestrian crossing, 10 meters of a bus or trolleybus stop, 30 meters of a railway crossing, or 50 meters of a tunnel or bridge.

  • Parking is prohibited in areas designated as fire lanes or emergency vehicle access.

  • In some areas, parking is allowed only on alternate sides of the street on certain days. Be sure to check the signs for details.

  • You cannot park in spaces reserved for disabled persons without a valid permit.

  • Many parking areas in South Korea are operated by private companies and require payment. Make sure to check the signs for information on how to pay and the parking duration limits.

  • In some areas, it is possible to pay for parking using mobile apps or prepaid parking cards.

  • If you park illegally, your vehicle may be towed away or you may receive a fine.

Parking Permits for Expats and Disabled Drivers

If you are an expat living in South Korea, you may be eligible for a parking permit that allows you to park in designated areas. However, the eligibility criteria and application process vary depending on the city or region where you live.

For example, in Seoul, expats with valid residence cards and foreign drivers’ licenses can apply for a foreign residents’ parking permit. This permit allows them to park in designated parking spaces in their neighborhood. In Busan, expats can apply for a foreigner’s parking permit by showing their alien registration card and driver’s license.

If you are a disabled driver, you can apply for a parking permit that allows you to park in designated disabled parking spaces. To apply for a disabled parking permit, you need to have a disability rating of 40% or higher, as determined by a medical examination. You will also need to provide documentation from your doctor and submit the application to your local government office.


Driving in South Korea can be a challenging but rewarding experience. The country has a well-developed road infrastructure, and the driving standards are generally high. However, it is important to familiarize yourself with the local driving rules, regulations, and customs to ensure a safe and enjoyable driving experience. By following the rules, carrying the required equipment, and paying attention to road signs and traffic lights, you can enjoy exploring the country’s beautiful landscapes and vibrant cities from behind the wheel.

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