중앙데일리

A man who lives for thrill of cars

Military taught him mechanics

July 23,2007
Lee Chang-yong Provided by the company
During his 28-day European trip four years ago, Lee Chang-yong, a GM Daewoo Auto and Technology worker, and three of his friends did not spend a penny on accommodation. They slept in a leased van overnight, washed in public showers and ate rice cooked on a burner they brought from Korea, along with a 5-kilogram (11 pound) sack of rice.
For the 29-year-old, who has spent the last one-and-a-half years at the carmaker, vehicles are inseparable from trips. “The best thing about traveling by car is that I can go wherever and whenever I want to,” he said in an interview at the GM Daewoo’s Bupyeong plant in Incheon. “You don’t have to book Eurostar tickets or run to the station to keep to a schedule, although I sometimes feel a car can become a nuisance, especially when it comes to parking.”
Lee’s love affair with cars dates back to the late 1990s, when the army designated him as a driver. As a novice, he was taught basic car maintenance.
“The fact that a vehicle, which is a combination of thousands of parts, can move as if it were a living creature just amazed me,” he said.
When he finished his military service, he decided to get a job at a car company.
With a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Lee serves as a liason between the manufacturers of his company’s compact cars and overseas buyers, with specific regard to car development and production. About a year ago he bought a 0.8-liter Matiz compact with a GM Daewoo nameplate, using a 21 percent discount offered to all workers.
His first road trip abroad took place in the United States, right after he got out of the Army in 2002.
He rented a Chevrolet Malibu and traveled all the way from Atlanta to Miami and then to Orlando. At a gas station in the middle of the trip, he discovered the owners were a Korean couple.
They greeted Lee by serving deonjang jjigae, or soy-bean paste soup, which Lee initially assumed was because they were excited to encounter a man from their home country.
But then the husband asked Lee to work at the station for one day while he went to visit his daughter in Atlanta. Lee said he earned $125 from the unexpected one-day job.
He regrets that most Koreans tend to hang out only with their own compatriots when on overseas trips. During a stay at a camping village in Munich, 20-somethings of all nationalities were gathered around a campfire, eating, singing and talking. “But the Koreans congregated together in a corner,” Lee said.
“They were just asking each other pointless questions such as ‘Where in Korea are you from?’”
This summer he plans to go to China with colleagues ― and he will have to use public transportation, not a rental car.
But next time he will rent a caravan that will enable him to sleep, wash and cook on the road.


By Seo Ji-eun Staff Writer [spring@joongang.co.kr]



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