For South Korea’s first female president, nothing says inaugural like a steel and Kevlar-clad limousine. Park Geun-hye was seen waving out of the sunroof of the specially modified Hyundai Equus during her first day on the job in late February. The 61-year-old broke with tradition by choosing a Korean-made vehicle for the trip to the ceremony held at the National Assembly. Past presidents opted to ride in bulletproof Cadillacs, Lincolns or Mercedes.
In a country prone to bouts of hyper-nationalism, even the president’s vehicle choices are scrutinised, says analyst Jasper Kim. Park’s predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, was seen as too cosy with the West so she may be looking to define herself as a patriotic consumer through and through.
While the limo’s body is pure Hyundai, its reinforcements are by Germany’s Stoof, a specialist in armoured transport. But don’t let the rugged 100kg doors or infrared imaging system fool you; this line of Hyundai Equus luxury sedans is also equipped with fine leather upholstery, walnut trim and massaging seats. There’s nothing like riding in complete comfort while dodging the bullets of a North Korean sniper.
Park has good reason not to take any chances with security. In 1974 a Pyongyang-backed assassin, apparently a terrible shot, killed her mother while trying to knock off her father, strongman Park Chung-hee; five years later, he too was shot dead, killed by his own intelligence chief. Then, in 2006, Park Geun-hye herself was injured by a knife-wielding maniac.
Code One: Boeing 747-400
Park is the second South Korean leader to use the official presidential aircraft, known as “Code One”, and leased from Korean Air since 2010. Two years ago it was grounded after a mechanical failure while flying President Lee.
Both Hyundai and Stoof are tight-lipped about the €1.4m Equus, but the limo reportedly has enhanced shock absorbers, a high-speed V8 engine and its own fire extinguishing systems and oxygen supply.
BMW 760Li High Security
Popular with VIPs from the Middle East, this BMW is also a South Koren presidential favourite for its VR9 ballistics protection and 0-100 km/h zip in 6.2 seconds.
Mercedes S600 Pullman Guard
While the Equus is a local favourite, President Park prefers the Mercedes S600 Pullman Guard, designed to withstand military projectiles and hand grenades.
Pakistanis and Turks have long called each other “brothers” and frequent visits by top officials between the two countries have transformed fraternal rhetoric into concrete co-operation. Despite domestic turmoil in Pakistan, Istanbul’s statesmen and business leaders are considering undertapped resources in its infrastructure, energy and agriculture, with billions invested by Turkish companies, particularly in the Punjab. Turkish conglomerate LIMAK Group is currently eyeing up mining opportunities in the Thar desert in Sindh, an area with the world’s sixth-largest coal reserves at an estimated 170 billion tons.
Three recent projects:
Meetings were held earlier this year for the Turkish Housing Administration to create more “Turkish towns” in the Sindh region, modelled after the 4,620-unit development built after the 2011 floods.
Last summer saw the first testing of trains on part of the Gul railway line, a key transport route that links Turkey and Pakistan to carry freight through the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul trade corridor.
In February, PM Erdogan made a gift of Pakistan’s first metro transit system in the form of 45 buses, donated to the city of Lahore (pictured). All the vehicles are manned by Turkish drivers.
Type: Parliamentary, gubernatorial, regional
Date: 13 May
Candidates: At stake are the 233 House of Representatives district seats, half the 24 Senate seats, 80 provincial governorships and hundreds of mayoralties. It won’t alter the country’s leadership; these are mid-term elections.
Issues: As many as the Pacific archipelago has islands. Poverty, crime, corruption, sporadic armed conflict with various militias.
Monocle comment: Filipino elections are grand and gaudy spectacles rooted in carnival populism. It would be nice to see some seriousness applied in a country set to be the world’s 16th largest economy by 2050.