The Seung Remains The Same: How The Wrong Korean Guy Took The Heat For The Monticello Crash

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

WARNING: If you have any track experience, or even if you don’t, the above video can be painful to watch. It’s the long-legged Monticello Motor Club racetrack as experienced by the IMPA journalists on their test day: coned off, watered-down, speed-limited. Had I made the 584-mile drive to Monticello and found conditions like this, I’d have been furious.

Still, the above restrictions weren’t enough to keep the Korean journalist, identified to me as Tai Sung “Peter” Park, from wiping an IS-F against the guardrail. What followed that incident was an odd tale of international misunderstanding, possible deceit, and Keystone Kops silliness…

Shortly after publishing the above-linked story, I was contacted by a few of my friends in the business. There was a Korean driver who wanted to speak to me. Was it the guy who crashed the IS-F? No, I was told, but you will want to hear what he has to say. When I did speak to Seung Min “Mel” Yu, I found him to be a friendly, forthright, but rather embattled fellow. His public statement, released to his Facebook page first and then to his Korean-language auto review site, MotorBlog, explains why he’s feeling down:

Hello.

Regards to unfortunate incident happened at 2011 IMPA test days,
“Tai Sung Peter Park” who was directly responsible to the incident DOES NOT HAVE ANY ASSOCIATION with My (Seung Min Yu) old blog & company Motorblog LLC & Motorblog.net.

He is working for korean “Power Bloging” website out of naver.com (Famous portal site in South Korea) called motorblog. (Direct address; blog.naver.com/motorblog & motorblog.kr )

Motorblog.net & Motorblog is trademark of Motorblog.net LLC out of Grand Blanc Michigan since 2005.

Motorblog.net LLC discovered the confusion about association with “Tai Sung Peter Park” Sept 21, 2011. and verbally asked him to cease & Desist using “Motorblog” name. I will be taking legal course of actions to prevent any further conflicts as soon as possible.

Motorblog.net LLC is privately held corporation which I’m at the position of President.

If there’s any question about the past history especially releasing media fleet, please do not hesitate to contact me at any of your conveinence.

Best Regards

Seung Min Yu (Mel)

My complete ignorance of the Korean language keeps me from doing the due diligence I’d like to do on this story, but the people who recommend Mel to me know him to be a straight shooter. We will give him the benefit of the doubt. In a phone conversation, Mel gave me some additional details. He’d been the only Korean member of the “International” Motor Press Association for years; when he met Mr. Park the day before the event was due to begin, he immediately realized that there may have been a misrepresentation. Mel is careful to note that Mr. Park probably did not mean to misrepresent himself as an employee or associate of his, but the IMPA folks assumed that two Korean guys, both claiming to be from “Motorblog”, must be part of the same organization. In their conversation, Mr. Park expressed excitement about being on a racetrack, since although he’d done his national service in the Korean army, he’d never had any formal driver training or racetrack time.

What happened next has already passed into buffet-table legend. Approximately fifteen minutes after the event was opened, Mr. Park bounced up to an IS-F and took his first-ever lap of a racetrack. Or, rather, his first-ever half-lap. The video at the head of this article shows tire marks and a rather sharp exit off-track right before the back-straight chicane.

An hour later, Mel was approached by IMPA personnel, who more or less said “Your Korean pal wrecked a $67,000 car and blew the scene. What are you going to do about it?” While I don’t care for the core assumption made here — that every Korean in the business is somehow interlinked, perhaps with an underground network of “kumite” fights to the death — it’s understandable given the stressful situation. Mel told them, “He’s not my guy,” and his personal nightmare began.

As is usual in this business, the rumor spread faster than any potential truth to counteract it. Two different people told me over the weekend that “the Korean wrecked the Lexus.” The idea that there could be two different Koreans in the world seemed a little far-fetched. Mel received emails, texts, and Facebook messages that were alternately accusatory, gloating, or simply disappointed. Press-fleet managers didn’t want him behind the wheel of their cars. For Mel, it was disastrous; he’d been building his brand for six long years and was watching it disappear in a moment.

Meanwhile, Mr. Park’s representatives were apparently working things out with Toyota’s Korean PR people. It turns out that Mr. Park’s blog has some nontrivial clout over there, and whatever dust he raised has been settled in the same casual manner that, say, a fatal collision in a US print rag’s press loaner would be, or has been in the past.

Mel, however, may find the damage to his reputation harder to repair. Imagine being in a foreign country, accused of someone else’s misdeeds, and trying to fix the mess using only your limited knowledge of the language and a small circle of personal friends. It won’t be easy. This is an insular business. I can attest to that personally. A few years ago, I was kicked off an important press event and deleted from a few press-fleet access lists at the request of a Chicago-area journalist who just didn’t like me and had the buffet-browsing connections to make it stick. I’ve settled that particular score with interest, but Mel will face a similar uphill battle to restore the access on which his livelihood depends.

We’d like to hear from any Korean-speaking resources who have additional knowledge of the situation, as well as representatives from IMPA and Toyota USA, but while we’re waiting for the rest of the story to come out, please join me in wishing Seung a quick and fair resolution to this issue… and please join me in demanding a minimum level of driving competence from the automotive writers you choose to read and support.


Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Mitchw Mitchw on Sep 26, 2011

    My experience at a Lexus ISF event at Monticello was that the PR people checked my ID very carefully indeed. My license was checked against a list of invited people, and I had to sign a waiver. Then there was a brief 'introduction to driving' session, then helmets were worn. There was a speed limit of around 50 or sixty, but on the south track at least, that's plenty fast enough to get into trouble. Some very tight low speed turns, elevation changes. Maybe IDs weren't well checked or instruction given at this particular event. My recollection of the track is that after that temporary chicane on the straight, there is a brow you don't want to mess up;so it's a good place for forcing speeds down. Any word on where the 'agricultural' happened, because at the chicane you'd have really had to go nuts to go off.

  • Signal11 Signal11 on Sep 27, 2011

    I speak and read Korean. What do you want to know? Looking at the comments on the various blog posts, it's mostly fans of one blog sniping at another. (Imagine that!) I usually avoid big Korean blogs, mostly because of all the idiotic commenting. Ever look at the the (American) Yahoo News comments? It's like that, only worse.

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.
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