Back in the 1950s, the only vehicles in the streets of Seoul were U.S. military jeeps and a handful of imported cars. In 1955, Korea began to produce its own automobiles by reassembling engine parts cannibalized from military jeeps. A four-cylinder engine based on a jeep motor became the basis for Korea's first car, the Sibal, which means "beginning" in Korean.
Some 56 years since the first Sibal rolled off the assembly lines, Korean carmakers had produced 70.15 million vehicles as of the end of September this year, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said Monday.
There were many trials and tribulations on the way to achieving this milestone. In the 1960s, there were around 20 factories across the country that rolled out buses, and standardized parts and other common specifications were hard to find. Parts of chassis were made of wood because steel was scarce.
In 1976, Hyundai Motor produced the Pony, Korea's first passenger car made using homegrown technology. Hyundai, which had merely reassembled Fords for sale in Korea, sent workers to Italy to study design and developed the chassis in Japan to succeed in exporting Korea's first automobile. With the development of the Pony, Korea became the second Asian country and the 16th in the world to produce an indigenous car.
The 1980s saw Korean automakers equip their plants with mass production facilities, and this catapulted cars into the ranks of Korea's top export products. In 1992, accrued automobile production volume surpassed 10 million.
Over the last 56 years, Korea's automotive industry grew at an average annual rate of 27.4 percent. It now ranks as the fifth-largest auto manufacturing country in terms of output. An official at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said the auto industry accounts for 10.1 percent of manufacturing output, 9.4 percent of added value and 10.2 percent of employment, and in a few years accumulated output will surpass 100 million cars.