This is the story. I went to Seoul Global Centre (S.G.C.) in 2011 and exchanged my Irish license for a Korean one.The Korean license is valid for 10 years, until 2021. Great, brilliant. I was told that to get the Irish one back, I simply had to return to the SGC and exchange it. Lovely.
I’ve been happily motoring around in Korea for 4 years. Never once in that 4 years have I got an email or letter or anything to say that any time period was up or that a deadline was approaching or whatever. Now that I’m returning to Ireland, I went back yesterday to exchange the license only to be informed that this wasn’t possible. Obviously, I asked why and was told that everyone who gets a Korean license signs the paper that says that it will be discarded after 3 years unless you come to pick it up.This has seemingly always been the policy. Do I have recollection of signing this paper? No, it was years ago! Were they able to show me the papers I signed in 2011? No.
I tried talking my way into getting it back. Since I’m leaving Korea no one would know if she just opened the safe (where I’m certain it still is) and gave it back to me. She was having none of it.
I thought about crying which I am just too positive to do.
I thought about sitting on the chair and refusing to move until she gave me the damn license. This was ruled out based on the amount of security hanging around. No one wants to get arrested before they leave a country.
I thought about jumping over the desk and just pulling the safe open and getting it forcibly but that was disregarded because I don’t have a desire to cause a scene or get arrested.
So, I left and went to my embassy to ask them what I can do. I just have to do what I did when I came here. Go to the Korean Embassy in Ireland to get it verified and then follow the directions on this very helpful website; http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/travel_and_recreation/motoring_1/driver_licensing/exchanging_foreign_driving_permit.html
I did call Seoul Global Centre this morning to ask whose policy it was and they said that it was a Government policy. I also asked why it was 3 years as opposed to 10 or 5 and she said that she didn’t know herself. I can’t find any more information about it online.
While the situation is obviously not desirable, it was caused by my own ignorance. The very bright part of this story is that my Irish license is expiring in September anyway and now my Korean one is good until 2021 so all good on that front! I am certain that they still have it in the safe and that they haven’t actually thrown it away but “discarded” is the term for not giving it back to you.
The lesson is that to anyone who has got a Korean license by swapping over, GO BACK AND GET IT WITHIN 3 YEARS! I don’t know if you can then reapply to keep the Korean license for longer or how it works so if anyone knows, please leave a comment below.