The biggest news last week had to be the historic peace summit between North and South Korea, a major step forward by the two Koreas which have been technically at war since 1950 as no peace treaty was signed following a call for truce.
We will leave the politics to bigger news agencies but what caught our attention was the choice of cars by the two Korean leaders – South Korean President Moon Jae-in travelled to the summit in a W222-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class while his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-Un was chauffeured in his stretched W221-generation S-Class Pullman. We are certain that it is armoured but can’t confirm if it’s a Guard series model by Mercedes-Benz or by a third-party company, as Mercedes-Benz has very strict rules regarding who it sells its factory-made armoured vehicles to, not to mention the obvious trade restrictions on companies doing business with North Korea, nevermind about one coming from a NATO-aligned country.
Kim choice of car is unsurprising as the North Korean ruling family is known to have a wide collection of Mercedes-Benz limousines and an S-Class is the dynasties’ default choice.
His South Korean counterpart however, like all his predecessors, often travelled in a Hyundai limousine. Obviously they are obligated to travel Korea’s finest limousine rather than one from Germany. Since coming into office, Moon's official car is a stretched Hyundai Equus limousine customized for the President with armoured materials developed in-house by Hyundai. Hyundai donated three units of the armoured Equus limousine for use by the Blue House, South Korea's equivalent to the United States' White House. The video below is President Moon’s ‘regular’ official car.
For this summit however, Moon’s had swapped his Hyundai for a Mercedes-Benz. There were only two Korean cars in Moon’s motorcade - a Hyundai Sonata and a regular wheelbase Equus, both police cars clearing the traffic ahead before splitting from the president’s convoy shortly before crossing into the DMZ.
We have reasons to believe that the decision to drop the Hyundai limousine, a symbol of South Korea’s economic progress, for a more neutral Mercedes-Benz of German origin was intentional. That way, both leaders were seen to be coming together on less mutually exclusive terms.
Keen political observers have already pointed that everything about the summit have been meticulously detailed and arranged to reflect the shared identity of the two Koreas and their genuine intention of peace. Everything from the choice of pen used (a Montblanc, also from Germany), to the backdrop of art, poetry and literature used at the summit, have been carefully selected and only themes that are common to both Koreas were selected. Even the symbolic planting of a tree was done using soil taken from the highest mountain of each of the Koreas, sprinkled with water taken from each side’s longest river.
We are quite certain that similar considerations have been made by President Moon’s office regarding his official car.
The President's office can’t do much about the Cadillac Escalades used by his bodyguards though, because those vehicles are a regular feature on his motorcade. It’s quite possible that those Cadillacs can't be replaced because they have been customized to meet the President's security detail's requirements and are not just armoured but are also heavily armed, similar to the ones used by the US President. The SUVs that escort President Trump were known to carry rear-facing high-powered weaponry behind the SUV’s spacious rear.
More about the Mercedes-Benz Guard series armoured vehicles in the video below. By the way, do you know who else uses an S600 Pullman Guard? President Vladimir Putin of Russia.