Getting a library card in Korea may seem useless at first if you don’t speak Korean, but fortunately, most libraries have a wide selection of English materials, even in smaller cities! Secondarily, the children’s section is an amazing treasure trove of study material. Think back to when you were a kid. Did you learn to speak only through listening to other people talk, or did you watch movies, read books or manga, or have an older sibling or parent read to you? Whether you’re in the mood to read an old favorite from America or you’re looking for a quiet place to study, a Korean library card is invaluable.
Most libraries are going to require an ARC or passport and basic contact information (name, phone number, address, etc.). If you don’t speak Korean, it may be helpful to go with a friend, as the forms will be in Korean. The libraries will not ask for more information than this, and often do not even require an identification card. In some very rare cases, you may need a piece of mail with your current address that matches your Identification Card in order to prove that your address is up-to-date, in case the library needs to contact you in regards to fines, events, holds, or other information. However, due to the digital age, this practice has almost completely been done away with. If the library requires an Identification Card, and your card does not show your address, a Student Card along with a copy of Resident Registration will be required before a library card will be issued.
Unlike the US, libraries do not usually connect within counties, cities, or provinces. They are independent entities, so you cannot acquire a ‘Seoul Library Card’ that will work at all libraries within Seoul. You must acquire a library card for each library that you wish to borrow materials from unless that library explicitly states that they are interconnected with another library. This being said, fines, due dates, amount of items to be borrowed at one time, and other policies differ from place to place. For up-to-date information on your closest library, it is best to visit their online site or visit them in person. If you’re unable to go in person at this time, or your library doesn’t have the necessary information posted online, it doesn’t hurt to have some idea of what to expect. For general policies that may reflect similarities in your library or a list of other libraries in the Seoul region, feel free to visit the Seoul Metropolitan Library’s website. They have specific information about their own policies that are often very similar to other libraries throughout the country, so it may be worth visiting even if you reside in another city or province.
For information on the laws regarding fines and penalties regarding libraries, you can visit here for an English translation. If some dispute must be settled, you can use this translation for reference, but the original Korean law (not a translation) will be used in court.