The Korean government has vowed to open its automotive makret, which has been hostile to imports. Last month, foreign automakers took steps to hold the government to its word. After boycotting the official Seoul Motor Show, importers held their own show.
The 10-day Korea Import Motor Show attracted 17 foreign manufacturers, including all of the principal bidders for bankrupt Daewoo Motor Co. plus three Japanese makers. The show was an official debut of sorts for the Japanese, who until last year had been barred by law from the Korean market. Imports account for less than 1 percent of the Korean auto market. Analysts say the show could help start sales and settle the question of the social acceptability of driving an import. Driving an iomport here is widely perceived as unpatriotic, a sentiment created by years of government-orchestrated drives against the purchase of luxury imported goods.
But Seoul is under pressure from the United States and the European Union to open its car market, and the governmnet has shown signs of listening. The commerce minister told the local press that he was giving 'serious consideration' to buying an imported car for official use. 'Korean consumers are becoming positive about imports, and we are very hopeful about the future,' said Yoon Dae-Sung, managing director of the Korean Automobile Importers and Dealers Association. 'But the speed with which the Korean government is trying to improve the climate for foreign cars is not satisfactory. They need to show greater initiative.'