Pope Francis sports Kia in Seoul

Pope Francis’ choice of car during his five-day South Korean visit has surprised many in the self-conscious country where celebrities rarely hit the streets in anything but expensive cars.

After his arrival Thursday, the pope left the airport in a Kia that many South Koreans would consider too humble for a globally powerful figure such as the pope.

In a television broadcast, the pope climbed into the backseat of the boxy Kia Soul and rolled down the window and waved.

His frugality and humble demeanor received wide coverage in South Korea, a fiercely competitive country that celebrates displays of status and wealth. This national trait can be seen in a boom of industries such as private tutoring and plastic surgery.

The images of the smiling pope in his little car struck was popular online, with many playing on the car’s name. One South Korean user said in a tweet that: “The pope rode the Soul because he is full of soul.”

For the man who is known as “The People’s Pope” the choice makes sense for him. He has not used the bullet proof “popemobiles” that his predecessors used on foreign trips and said that priests around the world to travel in common cars.

The pope prefers a blue Ford Focus in the Vatican. He also prefers to be in an open car in St. Peter’s square, where he can touch the crowds.

South Korean media reported that the pope requested the smallest South Korean car during his visit from before his visit. The Soul is one of Kia’s smallest models.

Though not everyone loves the Soul’s design, it appeals to young and practical drivers.

Already bubbling with excitement for the first papal visit in 25 years, South Koreans are fascinated by the papal car.

“I feel honored that Pope Francis will not be in a bulletproof vehicle,” said Shon Cho-eun, a student. “I hope he arrives safely and delivers good messages to us.”