South Koreans can now carry digital driver’s licenses

More than one million citizens have already crossed over to using a digital license, made possible through the PASS smartphone app

Image of Gangnam Square in Seoul, South Korea
There are over 32.6 million licensed drivers in the country

South Koreans no longer need to maintain a physical copy of their drivers license because they now have the option to use a blockchain-powered digital alternative in conjunction with the PASS smartphone app.

Over one million citizens have already chosen to opt in to this alternative, which represents more than three percent of the entire country’s driving population. According to Statista, South Korea had over 32.6 million licensed drivers in 2019.

The digital driver’s license is the first authorised digital identification card that can be used in the country, and was approved by South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT in September 2019.

This is expected to make transportation and identification more convenient for drivers, particularly those who prioritise bringing their smartphones with them on their travels.

Developments on the project were started in May, under the care of the National Police Agency and in collaboration with the Korea Road Traffic Authority, SK, KT, and LG U+. By July, 27 of the country’s driver’s license testing centres had already integrated the use of the PASS app to renew and reissue digital drivers licenses.

These digital licenses can also fulfill identification and proof of age requirements; citizens are asked to show proof in convenience stores and retail chains that sell cigarettes and alcohol. A barcode or QR code will be presented on the app for retailers and merchants to verify their age, and non-Korean residents can show the English versions of their licenses.

Beyond licensing, other related transportation industries such as rental cars and shared rides services, are also considering the capacity for these IDs to function as an alternative for face to face verification checks.

South Korea has rapidly integrated different applications of blockchain technology across multiple industries. Beachgoers in Busan have recently been informed that they can now pay for their services using Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH), while Seongnam’s payment program is working on an expansion that will issue new digital gift certificates.

KEB Hana Bank, one of South Korea’s largest banks, has also partnered with the Korea Expressway Corporation for the development of a blockchain-based toll system for the country’s highways.

Aside from South Korea, Australia’s New South Wales government has also been working on the possibility of transitioning existing licenses to digital formats using the blockchain. In late 2018, they announced that they were trialing Ethereum-based digital licenses, which may soon replace physical copies.