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Old 10-24-2009, 10:28 PM   #1
longwaybackhome OP
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Korean “heavy motorcycle license test” - Motorcycle acrobatics

Good day fellow ADVriders,

This ride report is a little different from other ride reports on ADVrider. It is not the typical adventure ride along forest and mountain trails, mountain twisties or some of those adult watergames that many of us enjoy so much. It is neither involving hot Korean biker babes or siberian cuties nor is it a “family ride” or a “romantic” ride under the blossoming cherry trees with the wives.

I get many PMs asking about motorcycling in Korea and especially related to the famous motorcycle test so I thought I summarize it in a ride report. Things are indeed a little complicated here. A Korean "heavy motorcycle licence" is required in order to drive anything over 125 cc (!) in Korea! A foreign motorcycle license is NOT valid.

In order to get the Korean heavy motorcycle license you need to pass a practical riding test which actually is rather tricky. The tests are conducted at a limited number of official driver’s license offices of which we have one in Busan. The driver’s license offices are run by the police. In Busan the tests take place twice a week on either Tuesday mornings or Thursday afternoons.

My colleague, “Changwon Easy Rider”, and myself enrolled online (well, we needed some help) to take the test since we wanted to ride powerful “heavy motorcycles” with a displacement in excess of 125 cc.

1st attempt

After registering at the driver’s license office and presenting IDs to prove our identity all 50+ candidates gathered in the lecturing room and we were briefed about the test for some 30 minutes in Korean… We looked serious and nodded as a sign of understanding. Luckily one of the candidates spoke English and could give us a separate private lesson explaining the test.

We had to pass the four sections of the test without touching the edge of the track and we were allowed to put down a feet only once. The edges of the tracks were prepared with hoses having some kind of electrical contacts making a loud horn signal as soon as a wheel or a foot touched the edge (hose).

1st section: 2 x 90 degrees corners
2nd section: S-curve
3rd section: “Slalom”
4th section: “Straight ahead”

1st section: 2 x 90 degrees corners

2nd section: S-curve

3rd section: “Slalom”

4th section: “Straight ahead”

We were not allowed to make a test run but we could sit on the motorcycle to be used for the test, a Hyosung Mirage 250cc. Please note that I am sitting on the pillion seat on this photo.

The policeman in charge drove through the track a couple of times to demonstrate how easy the test is.

So it was time to gather outside and start doing the test. All of us were commanded to take place on the grand-stand and enjoy the show.

The “order of appearance” was chosen by lottery and the comedy started. All in all 4 out of roughly 50 persons made the test. Of those who failed the test all failed in the 1st section with the 2 x 90 degrees curves. Including me. I do not even know what happened, just heard the horn and the test was over. After failing I was out and could not continue to practice sections 2 to 4. Just enrol for the next week test again.

Changwon Easy Rider passed the test. He has years of experience navigating through the Changwon rush hour with his Daelim 125 cc.



1st section

2nd section

3rd section

4th section

Test passed. Maybe “Iceman” or “Coolman” would be a more appropriate name for the Changwon Easy Rider.

Here Changwon Easy Rider on his new Suzukawaha 800 cc cruiser.

These videos on YouTube (not mine) maybe give you a better idea about the test:
- A test failed in the first section (the 2 x 90 degrees turns).
- A successful test passed in less than 50 seconds!
- This one is unfair! The guy had the opportunity to make a practice run and did not even use a helmet! The police guys running the test on the countryside seem to be way too sloppy and do not take the test seriously! The track seems to be next to SPP Shipyard in Tongyeong or Goseoung.

2nd attempt

I arrived some 5 minutes too late and they would not let me in to the test track. After insisting to talk to “Sajangnim” (the President of the office) they let me in. The Korean briefing was about to end when I arrived so I thought that I could just take the test again. But I could not. The guy in charge got really angry and started shouting at me in Korean. Did not understand so I called my assitant for instant translation. He did not take the phone but my assitant could translate that he was shouting that “I am breaking the law and that I have to leave immediately”… So I gave up and went to the office and registered for a test the next week again. Saw this sign in the office.

3rd attempt

This time I arrived in a timely manner. I was however upset because of some job related issues and when I learned that I was to do the test as No. 1 I thought OK that’s it - Publicly humiliated once again. My heart was pounding and pumping adrenaline when I strapped on the helmet and started the Hyosung. I entered the first 90 degree bend of the first section and… No horn. What? I am not out! I have to continue! Second 90 degree bend I was about tipping inwards and I gave the Hyosung full throttle and stormed through the bend with my outer leg straight out to balance the bike. I managed the first section!

I was even more excited and knew that it was now or never. I took a deep breath and entered the 2nd section, the S-curve. It is actually not difficult but due to my excitement I almost screwed it up. Again, I went through the second curve with a full throtlle and my outer leg straight out balancing the bike. Successful.

The 3rd slalom section was easy. I got through the 4th section with the same technique as sections 1 and 2. I could not believe I did it. Luckily there was no rule against stretching out legs to keep the balance! I got my “heavy motorcycle license”!

For all of you guys planning to ride a 125 cc+ bike in Korea you will need to take the test. In case you ride an insured bike without the aforementioned Korean "heavy motorcycle license" and somebody crashes into you (the others fault), you are in deep shit since you will have to absorb a part (how much is decided by police / judge / insurance...) of the damages although you are innocent!

Want to buy a bike in Korea? You can march into the local BMW Motorrad dealer and buy a new beemer. The R 1200 GS Adventure costs 30 million Korean won new (25.000 USD)! Alternatively you buy second hand from the official beemer dealer or you surf for bargains on e.g. (all in Korean of course!). Since foreign motorcycles are for “rich” Koreans only they fall in price quite quickly and a 5 year old bike (a 5-year old bike is not a status symbol anymore) can be found for a reasonable price (compared to the new price in Korea, of course). On the purchase price you will have to pay a significant amount in tax when you register the bike. I paid some 800.000 KWON (670 USD) for my 2nd hand 4-month old 2008 R 1200 GS Adventure.

Finally there is no "all-risk" insurance for motorcycles. I.e. you crash your bike into a tree you get nothing. Bad luck. The insurance premiums are soaring and I currently pay 700.000 KWON (590 USD) a year for my 2008 1200 GS.

Once you are through all this you can hit the road. Unfortunately as a motorcyclist you are treated as any messenger boy on his Daelim. The definition of "safety distance" is "the safe distance when not even a small Daewoo Matiz can squeeze in between yourself and the vehicle in front"!

Out on the countryside the riding is fabulous, normally little or no traffic and the roads are great. Nice people and landscapes everywhere.
Ride safely!
Longwaybackhome ?

longwaybackhome screwed with this post 11-04-2009 at 04:39 AM
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Old 10-24-2009, 10:41 PM   #2
Edmond Dantès
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Interesting stuff indeed. So you can not transfer a foreign license over and receive a Korean license for a big bike?

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Old 10-25-2009, 01:25 AM   #3
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Any signs of allowing bikes on highways?
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Old 10-25-2009, 08:22 AM   #4
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Thanks for showing us how things are done in Korea... I'm surprised they don't let you take the test on your own bike.
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Old 10-28-2009, 07:17 AM   #5
longwaybackhome OP
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Korean drivers license / Motorcycles on highways

Originally Posted by Edmond Dantès
Interesting stuff indeed. So you can not transfer a foreign license over and receive a Korean license for a big bike?
That is right. I had both the truck and motorcycle license on my national license and when it was transferred to a Korean license I could keep only the passenger car license!

Originally Posted by andmoon
Any signs of allowing bikes on highways?
The "street manners" of some immature Korean bikers are bad enough to spoil this possibility for the entire Korean biker community. Also the average Korean car driver does not show enough respect towards bikers (e.g. safety distance). Frankly, I think there would simply be to many road kills if the highways are opened for motorcycles (and anyway I prefer offroad myself!).
Ride safely!
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Old 05-13-2010, 04:41 AM   #6
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Just took the test in Nambu today. I failed horribly! I have lots of experience on a bike and still freaked out and failed in the first 90 degree corner. Looks like you took your test in the same facility as I did. My only real gripe is that the bike I drove had the clutch cable all the way stretched out. It's like it has NEVER been adjusted!! Well, I will know more of what to expect next time I guess. Until then, I'm still riding around my 250cc Comet! :) Hey speaking of, are you still in Busan? I LOVE to go on road trips. Look me up some time!
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Old 05-17-2011, 07:32 AM   #7
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I know a better way for that...

Hi everyone! This is my first post here and, to be very true, I came across advrider because of this discussion: how to get a korean Driver's license for "heavy motorcycles".

I've been living in Geoje (an island in southern SK, known for its shipbuilding industry) for now 4 months. As a motorcycle owner for nearly 20 years back in Brazil, one of my personal conditions to live here was to have my bike here. OK, it is only a sports 250, but bearing in mind that we are only supposed to stay here for nearly two years, I can live with that. Also, the road ban for motorcycles simply makes me wonder what drives somebody to get a bigger (road) bike here, as you cannot run them in Korea's wonderful interstates...

Well, back to the matter, I took my chance in taking the driving exam in Busan, which took me one full day between booking it, taking it and...failing! What?! I have failed that acrobatics exam?! Yes, I the first turn, by the way...

But before that, a Korean guy who I meet after some afortunate contacts, advised me to attend a driving school, which at first sounded ridiculous, but in the end was the best thing to do.

The deal was: you pay 300.000,00 won (approx. USD 300...I didn't say it would be cheap, right?!), you take 10 hours of practical driving (the same circuit proposed in the regular exam), 2 hours of theory (In Korean, of course...did I understand anything?! Nope) and then you take the exam...there! In the same place you have practiced for 10 hours, with same motorcycle you rode for the same time! And, with the right for a warm up ride in the circuit right before the real exam. Perfect!

They call these schools as acredited or certified, and I believe there must be some of those around Korea. For me that only have 5 days of grace for personal matters, was a relly great deal.

If anybody needs any guidance about this matter here in Geoje, just shoot me a message, and I will put her in contact with the driving school, which manager can speak a little english...which here is a bless.


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Old 05-19-2011, 12:39 AM   #8
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Thanks for the great info! It's a lot of fun to see how it's done somewhere else! It's put's our way of doning things in perspective!
"Work negatively inpacts my free time !" Me.
"Ride it like you stole it, then do the same to me ! " Her.
"A good thing in a bad place, is still a good thing ! " Us.

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Old 07-18-2012, 11:42 PM   #9
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still accurate

I just did my Korean motorcycle driver license yesterday and confirm that everything described is still accurate.
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