Pope Francis left Seoul 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, Pope Francis climbed into the backseat of the boxy Kia Soul, rolled down the window and waved.
Pope 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.
For the man called “The People’s Pope” the choice makes sense. Pope Francis 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, Pope Francis 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.
[youtube gnC10NRizyg 650]