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Audis in Korea (longish)

Recently (ok, it was November) I had the "opportunity" to work for three weeks 
in Taejon, South Korea. Being a car guy and otherwise pretty bored, I was of 
course blurting out, "Hey, there's a [non-Korean car]", whenever I spotted one. 
This failed to amuse my companions, who attempted to damage my health by 
teaching me to smoke and drink. I had a beer every other night, but felt that 
the copious secondhand smoke available was more than enough to compensate my 
abstention from regularly scheduled exercise. I am forced to admit that there 
was a hike one day that I enjoyed, but that was the only day in three weeks 
that I wasn't just wishing time would pass faster so I could go home. Wait, I 
think I was intending to write about cars.

Therefore. There are Audis in Korea. Just not many quattros. In fact, as I 
decided to keep my car-related outbursts to myself (mostly) and began instead 
writing down the daily observations, the (old) A6 was slightly ahead or tied 
with the Mercury Sable for most commonly observed non-Korean car. But I only 
saw one A6q. And then on the last day I saw about 10 Sables during the bus ride 
back to Kimpo, just blew the Audis out of the water. That was the day I also 
saw the only 200 observed, don't know if it was a q though.

I have tabulated the full results at http://www.srv.net/~hah/audi/koreacars.htm 
so I won't list them all here.

Which leads to the indigenous cars, made by Hyundai, Daewoo, Kia, Ssangyong, 
and Samsung. Hyundai in particular has quite a proliferation of models, with 
very small increments of size between most of them. There is a tiny tall car 
(Atoz) and the large Grandeur, but many different platforms clustered around 
the subcompact size. I guess they haven't been following the platform-reduction 
strategy of Western automakers. My three  coworkers and I drove around in a 
Hyundai Avante (a sedan, the wagon is an Avante Touring), a little smaller than 
a Civic. I of course saw many of the Daewoo models now being introduced to the 
US. The three different orientations of bars on the grilles of these cars are 
irritating to look at, or maybe that's just me. I thought that all the Daewoo 
Arcadias I saw were Acura/Honda Legends until I got close enough to see the 
badges - that's got to be a licensed copy, or else Honda doesn't have any 
lawyers. There were many Kia Sportage mini-SUVs with "TURBO INTERCOOLER WAGON" 
decals on their doors, but since most vehicles larger than subcompact were 
diesel-powered, this didn't connote quite the fun quotient of an S6 avant. 
Ssangyong makes mostly SUVs, the Ford Explorer of Korea seems to be their 
Musso, of which an inexplicable number have undeserved Mercedes emblems, and a 
big car that looks suspiciously like an S-class, the Chairman Executive. 
Samsung apparently has only one model, a (has to be license-built again) copy 
of the Maxima but with a better-looking front fascia than we see in the US 
(that threw me for a while, those doors and taillights look like...) and a 
couple different engine options. I have since read that the government has 
ordered reorganizations in the chaebol (conglomerates: Hyundai, et al) and 
Samsung is selling its car operations to Kia in order to focus on electronics.

The price of gasoline works out to about one US dollar per liter, while diesel 
is about one-third of that. Which would explain the popularity of larger diesel 

Most of the cars were quite new, I believe there are regressive taxes in place 
to force older cars off the road, and the oldest car I saw was a late-70 
Mercedes. The larger new cars had fancy headlights, I believe they were just 
projectors but did seem to be very bright and a different color than the more 
normal running lights; there were so many of these cars running around I can't 
believe the lights were really HIDs though.

Despite the popularity of SUVs such as the Galloper Exceed and Sportage, there 
were very few pick-um-up trucks that we have so many of in the US. One Hyundai 
copy of the old Subaru Brat, and one Chevy C/K that looked like it used to be 
in the US military. The trucks used for work purposes were cab-over-chassis 
panel trucks, with smaller varieties than typically seen in the US, such as the 
Trade, Porter and Bongo (our favorite car name to pronounce was of course the 
Wide Bongo, it even got a song of sorts).

And the driving! While in the US we have traffic laws that are sometimes 
broken, Koreans seem to have traffic suggestions that don't really matter. I 
hear that some places are worse, like Italy (traffic rumors?), but I was very 
surprised to see only one fender-bender in all the time I was there. It must be 
that all the drivers are expecting to be cut off and swerve in front of one 
another, and there is enough traffic that speeds are fairly low most of the 
time. But watching a big, loaded bus zip through a fully-red light really makes 
you ponder your place in the cosmos.

Guess I'm done now.

Henry Harper
1991 200 quattro, 98k, send snow (no BRAKE light during 50mph ABS stop in ye 
olde high school parking lot - was it that bumpy 10 years ago, or did I never 
hit 50 in it back then?)
1988 GTI 16v, 185k, no ABS, vacuum assist