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.
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.”
South Korean media widely reported that the pope requested the smallest South Korean car during his visit.