Shortly after the Korean War, South Korea sought modernization in various aspects including the automotive industry. In 1955, the first passenger vehicle produced in Korea was the Sibal. Modeled after the US army jeep, or Willys Jeep, the Sibal was a two door vehicle that could go up to 49 miles per hour. The first Sibal was hand-built by brothers, Choi Mu-Seong, Choi Hye-Seong, and Choi Soon-Seong using imported spare parts and oil drums. Production of one Sibal would take four months as the engineers had to manually pound the steel. The vehicle was not high in demand until two months after its initial release when it was given a presidential award. As sales spiked, the Choi brothers were able to build a factory with a production line and eventually establish five factories.
(Left) Sibal (Right) Willys Jeep
The vehicle became popular amongst civilians and companies all over Korea, but the Sibal became a true staple piece in the taxi industry. As demand began to overtake supply, price rose and soon the Sibal became popular among South Korean Elites despite its association with the taxi industry.
Unfortunately due to the increase in prices and popularity, the Korean government removed subsidies for the company. This in addition to a spike in competition and the loss of profit due to manufacturing development, the Sibal was discontinued in 1963 after producing 3,000 units.
Although the Sibal was just a car, we love the history that it carries as it symbolizes South Korea’s determination and hard work towards rebuilding and modernization after the Korean War. To carry on the Sibal’s legacy, we designed the First Korean Car Tee available in Black and Navy.