Crazy for cars – three automotive museums in South Korea

Exotic car dealerships line Bongeunsa-ro, a wide boulevard that runs east-to-west in Seoul’s fashionable Gangnam district. Here tourists can sit in the window of one of the neighborhood’s numerous Starbucks and watch Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bentleys pass by outside. South Korea’s car culture, however, remains elusive. The country was devoid of an automotive industry until the 1970s, following the Korean War. “The country was very poor back then, and [the] car business was a good business model for overcoming poverty,” says SangYup Lee, head of styling for Hyundai’s new Genesis luxury brand (and former designer at Bentley).”

Lee, who grew up in South Korea and left in the 1990s to study at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, says his homeland has developed significantly over the past two decades. “Car culture here in Korea is unique because the car is more of a trendy lifestyle product,” he says. “People love cars as more of a luxury item.” Classic cars are extremely rare, and performance modifications on new cars are not allowed. Still, there are a few spots where enthusiasts can find examples of rare and significant vehicles. It just takes a bit of effort.

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