The Kia Motors Carnival minivan / Courtesy of Kia Motors
By Jhoo Dong-chan
Just 20 days before the presidential election, candidates have to be on the road for many hours to meet as many voters as possible. For the candidates, the type of vehicle matters as they have to spend a lot of time in it, charting strategies and resting.
SUVs and minivans were found to be most popular among leading candidates, with the Kia Carnival minivan most favored.
Kia Motors' Sorento SUV is the vehicle for Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK).
Unlike other lawmakers who prefer larger sedans, Moon has driven his mid-size SUV model to get to his district office in Busan since he suffered defeat in the 2012 presidential election against former President Park Geun-hye.
Moon drove his Sorento SUV when he visited Kia Motors' production plant in Gwangju last September. The Kia Sorento SUV is manufactured at the plant with an annual production capacity of 600,000 cars.
Moon's rival, Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party, uses the Kia Carnival minivan, according to officials from his camp.
Like other lawmakers in the National Assembly, Ahn drove a black Genesis sedan, but opted for the blue 11-seat minivan in November 2014.
Ahn said he changed his car because the sedan may look bossy.
"Some pointed out that a lawmaker in a large black sedan could look authoritarian. So, I decided to change my car," Ahn was quoted as saying. "Another reason is that I can have meetings with my staff in the minivan while moving. I had ordered the model earlier, but the delivery was made last November."
Another presidential candidate, Yoo Seung-min of the minor conservative Bareun Party, is using the Hyundai Genesis sedan and the Kia Carnival minivan.
The Kia Motors Carnival 11-seat model is the most popular model for presidential hopefuls. On top of their private SUVs, Moon is using the black Carnival during his presidential campaign while Ahn is also using a Carnival minivan.
South Chungcheong Province Governor An Hee-jung, who was defeated in the DPK primary, rented a black Carnival minivan during his primary campaign while using a government car for his governor business.
Unlike other candidates, former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who dropped out of the presidential race in early February, used a black Hyundai Grandeur sedan.
A political observer said serviceability is the main reason behind the Kia Carnival's prevailing popularity among presidential candidates.
"A vehicle is another office for candidates. For them, it is also a place for work, talking on the phone, changing clothes and meeting with their staff," he said.
"Low-income-class people may feel alienated by a politician inside a luxury sedan. But, minivan models like the Kia Carnival are practical for business use, offering a friendly image to the public at the same time."