Oh, wow, I cannot believe it’s April. In February, the Olympics took over my life, but I also had mentioned doing one other task — re-obtaining my driver’s licence. I lost my previous licence because of a regulation change I wasn’t grandfathered into. This process took much longer than I’d wanted, and it has caused me so much stress that I escaped reality with a lot of gaming. I will say right now that I never liked driving, but in order to prepare myself, I grudgingly forced myself to get a Korean and an international licence. This process was filled with unnecessary drama, and all I can say is that I am relieved it’s all done.
Step 1: Traffic Safety Course
This was a mandatory three-hour course taught entirely in Korean. The only English part came when I watched a video with English subtitles. The video was a badly enacted K-drama of a young man going through some new driver woes, and he’s accompanied by an annoying girlfriend. The video also showed Japan as a shining example of safe driving, which I’d found quite amusing and ironic. In between the video, the instructor went over the basics of operating a car and rambled on about how we are to drive safely.
Step 2: Course Driving Lesson & Test
The next portion had me drive around the course attached to the school for four hours. It’s actually a very simple course. It consists of going up a slope, driving into a parking lot to do backwards perpendicular parking, and then an acceleration zone. There’s a random part where the car computer system screams “Emergency, emergency, emergency!” at you, and you have to stop and turn on your emergency light. You also have to show proficiency with basic car controls. However, this was all graded on a computerised system, so if you don’t follow and do things precisely, you will fail. Thankfully, I passed this on my first shot, but it took a while to get used to the system. But man, that fifteen minutes of me doing the test was so nerve-wracking!
Step 3: Written Exam
To prepare for my written exam, I was given a PDF with 1000 questions, where only 40 of them will appear randomly on the test. A good chunk of the questions are the ones you answer after watching a video, but the PDF cannot hold any videos, so those questions were moot. Oh, and the questions were all badly translated. Many of them made me go WTF, but there was one question that really made me speechless.
Here’s the question. I cannot recall any other questions as bad as this one, but many were quite close. Thankfully, I passed the exam on my first try with the bare minimum score of 70. I really hadn’t wanted to re-take this, so I was very relieved to have passed it!
Step 4: On-road Driving Lesson & Test #1
After my written exam, I had to practice the on-road driving courses for six hours. There were four courses to practise, and I would be tested on any one of them. They are easy courses that test on your ability to drive in real traffic, change lanes, make turns, and make a U-turn.
During my testing session, the guy before me failed within the first two minutes because he ran a red light. When it was my turn, I failed for several reasons:
1) I didn’t check the tires by kicking it. Only one of my instructors (out of four) mentioned that to me, so I didn’t really think it was something they tested on.
2) When I made a turn, I didn’t enter the correct lane.
3) When I had to change lanes from 4 to 1, I kept my blinker on during its duration. I was supposed to turn the blinker on and off each time I changed lane. Oh, and I didn’t wait long enough to change into the lane.
4) My last mistake was making a U-turn too late when the pedestrian light was blinking green. I’d hesitated too long to make my turn.
Step 5: On-road Driving Lesson #2 & Test #2
After my first failure, I paid for two extra hours of practice time and to re-take the test. Unfortunately, I failed the second test for a reason out of my control. I had to make a right turn at an intersection, and there’s a pedestrian crosswalk there. When I got there, it was green, but we’re told to still go if there is nobody around. Slowly, I turned into the crosswalk after double-checking for pedestrians. When I reached the middle of the crosswalk, I started to drive on. However, a pedestrian on the other side of the 8-lane road, whom I didn’t see because he was so far away, decided to make a run for the crosswalk. He stepped in just as I was driving on, and that automatically failed me. Needless to say, I was pissed at that pedestrian.
Step 6: On-road Driving Test #3
On my third attempt, the school did not pick me up on time due to somebody not doing their job. But I was picked up eventually and was able to still take my test late. This time I passed. I think the examiner went a little bit easier on me (maybe he could sense I was getting fed up with everything?). At first, I thought I was going to fail because he told me to slow down behind a dump truck once, and he told me to go at an intersection with a crosswalk (I wasn’t about to fail again because of a darn pedestrian), but I think he was just helping me a bit.
In the end, I passed. Third time’s a charm, indeed! Just in time for my Guam trip, too, where I made plans to rent a car. I may not like driving, but I see it as an evil necessity, and I’ll be practising more than before. Thus ends the long drama of my driving hell!