Pope Francis concluded his inaugural visit to South Korea on Monday, ending a five-day trip in which the Catholic leader's public appearances caused a media frenzy. That was thanks in part to images of the pontiff riding around in a compact Korean-made car instead of a bulletproof sedan.

Footage of the pope squeezed into a Soul, manufactured in Korea by Kia, aired live across the country. The video prompted speculation about how Francis chose that particular car. 

The guessing game about the pontiff's new wheels picked up speed online, with Koreans on Twitter making humorous connections to explain the choice. Some wondered if Francis settled on the Soul because of its spiritual name. Others thought he might have chose that particular model because it's commonly used to transport disabled persons, riffing on the Pope's oft-noted care for the sick.

Some Koreans also worried that the pope wasn't adequately protecting himself in such an ordinary vehicle, but most people still seemed to enjoy his decision to pick out a local car.

The reason the Pope is riding on Soul is because, in Italy, many people renovate that car for disabled people.

It really IS the Soul the pope is riding in. Although I can fully understand more why he choose a compact car, at the sight of it my mind immediately turns to the security guards around him who must be on the verge of a stroke at any minute.

The photo of pope inside the Soul made me laugh because it felt so out of place. A black sedan always reminds me of people in higher positions — the privileged, the people with money or power — and seeing pope not in one of those sedans looked so quaint.

Kia would probably like to send out a press releases boasting that the Kia Soul is chosen car of the pope. But they should realize the reason behind it: the pope only chose it because it's one of the most inexpensive cars, and he cares very much about the underprivileged.

What a scene — the Pope is riding in a Soul and his security people are following him in big sedans. This is something new for me. It looks so foreign and, at the same time, quite touching.

To stand at the same level as the pope, I am considering selling my current car and buying Soul.

Some Koreans did allege that news coverage of the papal visit wasn't balanced, but many others say the pope's rock-star popularity reflects the public's genuine thirst for leaders like Francis.

The reason why so many Koreans are so crazy about the pope is that he demonstrates how a true leader can achieve so many things and really influence people.

And as for the car, the truth was pretty simple in the end: The local Catholic committee responsible for organizing the visit later explained that the pope specifically requested a locally made car — the smallest model available, if possible.

This story by Lee Yoo Eun was originally published on our partner Global Voices Online, a community of bloggers from around the world.

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