Is Japan’s car culture Losing to Korea’s?

Is Japan's car culture losing to Korea's?

Let’s put ourselves back in the year 2002. The year when Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello dominated that year’s Formula One season with Scuderia Ferrari, the year when your resident Indonesian REVVING-IT-DAILY writer was born, and the year when our favourite Japanese Domestic Market cars were still in production. Japan ruled the automotive industry then.

Korea? Well, all they got were…

The likes of this…


…and some of this

To put it mildly, these cars were tasteless. I really put it mildly. I swear. These cars were…the sort of car that you see your middle aged family man/woman with no interest in life. One of those people. No car enthusiast – any car enthusiast – would even imagine owning a KIA or a Hyundai in 2002. Their dreams were mostly the Japanese cars that I said earlier in the article, the ones that kind of rule the enthusiasts’ world. The sort of…

This, a Mitsubishi Eclipse

A Nissan S15 Spec S

You like a 2 liter, 4 cylinder, turbocharged, all wheel drive sports sedan? Mitsubishi got the Evo for you.

There’s something for everyone in the JDM scene, even the wagon guys have a choice, and a good one.

maybe a Mitsubishi Galant, if you’re different

Or things like the Toyota Supra

And how could you forget this car?

You know these cars were the wet dreams of car enthusiasts back then, right? These cars were legendary! You must be living under a giant boulder to not know the existence of these cars. These cars either have vast aftermarket tuning scene, legendary badges, beautiful design, great power-to-weight, or it has the best driving characteristics.

These were the cars that us car enthusiasts crave of, the best ones, and the ones that just makes you want to come back to it again and again. You simply can’t buy a Korean car for your enthusiasm back then, you just can’t. Even if you try really hard, your Korean cars from 2002 simply can’t even dream about slightly scrubbing the Japanese cars of that era.


But all that seems to have changed this year…

Welcome to 2017

15 years might not be that long of a time. I certainly agree, look at all the things I have done in my life, how far I’ve gone with my formal education, and many other things. Your cellphones are no longer the 12 buttoned, small untouchable screened cellphones. And remember Sony Ericsson? Yeah, that stuff is long gone. F1 cars were more powerful, but also considerably less shouty. And the tables really turned when it comes to Korean cars and Japanese cars.


Let’s see what Japan has to offer for us car enthusiasts…

These are for the lightweight sports car lovers…

…and that’s it. Where have the Toyota Celica, MR2, and Mitsubishi Eclipse gone? Well, the former two are basically discontinued without a successor planned (as of July 2017), and the Eclipse has turned from a lovable two seater coupe sports car to…

…this monstrosity that doesn’t deserve even a single character of its name

Well, at least we still have the Nissan Silv- wait…

Yeah, it doesn’t exist.

Well, the Mitsubishi fans still have the Evolution, right?

Ah, about that…

Okay, okay, calm down. The wagon guys still have the Subaru WRX Wag- wait, that doesn’t exist anymore, too. Well, you still have a BTCC monster for the road that is the Levorg…that’s only available with CVT and with such tiny, tiny engine that makes it irrelevant to the actual BTCC Levorg…

Alright, I give up. The Japanese cars are maybe not quite a full on shitty line up yet, but it’s pretty close from getting to that phase, you gotta admit.


What does Korea have for us, then? The same crap from 15 years ago?

Get ready to be bewildered, because I certainly was when the Koreans announced these cars the first time.

The coupe guys don’t have the Eclipse, where are they going now? Hyundai…

And it’s not just any sports coupe, it’s a sports coupe that could be had with a 3.8 liter V6 that makes almost 350 hp that could do 0-60 mph (96 km/h) in 6 seconds. And from here on, it just gets better and better.

This is a design that I least expected from Hyundai

An alternative to the Genesis Coupe, this peppy little thing can be had with, get this, a dual clutch transmission. A fricking DCT! With the range topping 1.6 L turbo gasoline engine that makes 201 hp, this car is just the most fun you can have in a city car.

You’re not into the world of coupes? You prefer a nice super sedan? Koreans got you covered

Yes sir, even Korea now makes a super sedan to not only take on the Lexus GS, but also the likes of BMW 3ers, Audi A4s, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Klasse. The range topper GT model packs a 3.3 liter V6 that makes 365 hp. Oh, and did I tell you that it’s rear wheel drive?

What about the all-business people? Can they have a Korean car that suit them?


Say hello to the Genesis G90. Okay, you might think that this car’s range topper is another 3.x liter V6 with about 370 hp and front wheel drive or a front-focused all wheel drive. Nope, get befuddled because this car can be had with, um, a scarcely believable 5.0 liter V…6? Nope, V8! You can now have a V8 in a Korean car! Say that 10 years earlier, and everyone will laugh their asses off to your statement.


It seems to be that Japan is currently slowly losing the crown that it has held for the past 25 or so years. In such an unexpected fashion, the South Koreans are currently starting to steadily take the Asian industry crown from Japan. And they’re even starting to venture towards some niche markets, too.

The thing that fascinates me the most is how rapid the changes were in the Korean car industry. The turning year I would say will be the year 2008, that’s when Kia and Hyundai started to change their design language drastically.

Will the Koreans defeat the Japanese car industry when it comes to the enthusiasts’ market? We shall see, and I personally think that one day, we’d all be dreaming of Kias and Hyundais.

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