As a way to avoid taking China’s notoriously difficult driving test, Chinese tourists are flocking to nearby South Korea to get their driver’s licenses there and have it transferred upon returning home. Compared to China’s test, the South Korean test is much easier, cheaper and quicker to obtain.
Getting a license at one of Korea’s driving schools takes roughly a week at a state-appointed school, while there same process can take a several months or even a year back in China, according to the Korea Times. While future drivers have to pay for their flights from China to South Korea, the whole process of obtaining a license there is about half the price set by the Chinese government at roughly 7,000 yuan, or $1,000, offsetting a lot of that cost.
In 2011, the Korean government eased restrictions and rules for foreigners seeking to obtain licenses, like cutting mandatory driving hours to just 13 and offered the test in ten foreign languages, including Chinese. The Chinese have since taken advantage of the relaxed rules. In just the first five months of this year, 687 Chinese citizens were able to obtain South Korean driver’s licenses, local officials reported. By years end, officials expect that number to reach 2,000. China’s CCTV news reported that about 70,000 Chinese citizens obtained Korean driver’s licenses between 2012 and 2014.
The trend is gaining momentum, with some Korean tour operators starting to fold in the driver’s license test into their packages. The tour operators have added Chinese language services on their websites for easy registration and include shopping and sightseeing trips along with driving school packages.
"The sole reason for coming to Korea was to get my driver’s license,” Gao Yiai, a housewife from China’s northern Shandong province told state-run CCTV news. “My friend told me it’s easy to get a Korean one … I just passed the test. I’m so happy.”