Pedestrians crossing a road in Seoul. Chinese made up the bulk of foreign applicants for a South Korean driver's licence, which some officials say is easier and more comfortable to obtain than in China. Holders of a Korean licence can drive in Europe and the United States, as well as in China. — AFP
SEOUL: Short-term foreign visitors will soon be barred from applying for a South Korean driver's licence, as a revision of a relevant local law is imminent, reported Yonhap News Agency, quoting police today.
The Road Traffic Act's revision to allow only registered foreigners to obtain a driver's licence in South Korea is awaiting passage during the National Assembly's plenary session, with rival parties not opposed to the bill, according to the National Police Agency of Korea.
Registered foreigners refer to those who stay in the country for more than 90 days. If the bill is approved, short-term foreign visitors will be banned from getting a local driver's licence.
The pending legal revision has been pushed as many foreign tourists, mostly Chinese nationals, have relatively easily obtained a Korean driver's licence after taking intensive driving courses and have caused traffic accidents in third countries.
A total of 5,977 Korean driver's licences were issued to short-term foreign visitors in the first 11 months of this year, with Chinese accounting for 90.2 per cent, or 5,389, police data showed.
The number of Chinese short-term visitors who obtained a Korean driver's licence totalled 7,822 in 2015 and 7,213 in 2016. Due to a bilateral missile base dispute, the number fell to 3,748 in 2017 but rebounded to 4,675 last year. The figures exclude registered Chinese nationals who got a driver's license here.
Officials and experts say it is easier and more comfortable to obtain a driver's licence in South Korea than in China. In South Korea, for instance, licence applicants must undergo at least 13 hours of mandatory training, about one-fifth of that in China.
Holders of a Korean licence can drive in Europe and the United States, as well as in China. But some European countries have complained about traffic accidents involving Chinese holders of a Korean driver's licence.
For similar reasons, the Chinese government has also asked Seoul to restrict its licence issuance to Chinese tourists.