Car gaffe fails to put brakes on goodwill visit

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The Independent Online

A visit to North Korea's showcase car plant on Thursday left South Korea's President and the head of the world's sixth-largest car maker wondering if something was wrong with their driving or with cars made north of the border.

Before wrapping up his visit to the North, the President, Roh Moo-hyun, toured Pyeonghwa Motors, west of Pyongyang, and was offered a chance to take a test drive.

"OK, let's go," Mr Roh quipped from behind the wheel as he turned the ignition. "People in the front, out of the way, please." When the car, which was built with parts brought in from North Korea's economic powerhouse neighbour in the south, refused to budge, Hyundai's chairman, Chung Mong-koo, part of Mr Roh's delegation and whose plants churn out 1.6 million cars a year, offered his assistance.

"It's been so long since I drove," a sheepish Mr Roh said, as Mr Chung quietly checked under the dashboard and made sure the parking brake was released. It was all to no avail, even though Mr Roh said of Mr Chung: "This man right here is the car genius."

Asked to comment on the plant, Mr Chung said curtly: "Looks like they got everything they need." reuters