Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published August 14, 2014 at 8:11 AM | Page modified August 15, 2014 at 12:34 AM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments
  • Print

Pope's small car fascinates South Koreans

Pope Francis' choice of wheels during his five-day South Korean visit has surprised many in this painfully self-conscious country, where big shots rarely hit the streets in anything but expensive luxury cars.


AP Business Writer

advertising

SEOUL, South Korea —

Pope Francis' choice of wheels during his five-day South Korean visit has surprised many in this painfully self-conscious country, where big shots rarely hit the streets in anything but expensive luxury cars.

After his arrival Thursday, the pope left the airport in a compact black Kia that many South Koreans would consider too humble a conveyance for a globally powerful figure.

In a live television broadcast, the pope climbed into the backseat of the boxy Kia Soul, rolled down the window and waved. Surrounded by a few bigger black sedans, the pope's compact car headed toward Seoul.

Francis' frugality and humble demeanor have received wide coverage in South Korea, a fiercely competitive country that celebrates ostentatious displays of status and wealth. This national trait can be seen in booming industries such as private tutoring and plastic surgery.

The images of the smiling pope in his little car struck a chord online, with many playing on the car's name. One South Korean user tweeted: "The pope rode the Soul because he is full of soul."

For the man called "The People's Pope" the choice makes sense. He has eschewed the bulletproof "popemobiles" that his predecessors used on foreign trips and urged priests around the world to travel in low-key cars.

Inside the Vatican City, the pope prefers a blue Ford Focus, or when he's out in St. Peter's Square, a white open-topped vehicle that allows him to literally reach out and touch the masses.

South Korean media widely reported that the pope requested the smallest South Korean car during his visit. The Soul is Kia's second-smallest model and reportedly provides more leg room than other compact cars.

Though not everyone loves the Soul's funky design, it appeals to a niche of young, practical drivers. It has never, however, been a car of the rich and powerful.

Already bubbling with excitement over the first papal visit in 25 years, South Koreans appeared fascinated by the humble papal car.

"I feel honored that Pope Francis will not be in a bulletproof vehicle," said Shon Cho-eun, a 22-year-old Christian student. "I hope he arrives safely and delivers good messages to us."

____

Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield contributed to this story.



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►