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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
After intensive research I found the way to tell a Korean built Optima from a US built Optima is by looking at the headlights (LX trim ONLY!!). The US build Optima’s have a strip in the headlights that looks like it should turn on, however, the Korean built ones have a chrome strip in the headlights.

US Optima LX Headlights:
247840



Korean Optima LX Headlights:
247841



I thought this was a cool way to differentiate the Korean built Optimas from US built Optimas. So much easier looking at the headlights then checking the vin or window sticker.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I stand corrected. It's hard to find an EX/SX that was Korean built though (Unless it's just my searching that hasn't lead me to find one).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I found this info from a thread from 2014.

"THE FOLLOWING APPLIES FOR ALL OPTIMAS SOLD IN THE U.S.A......

ALL 2011 OPTIMAS LX/EX/SX WERE MADE IN KOREA.

ALL 2012+ OPTIMA EX/SX WERE MADE IN GEORGIA.

2012+ OPTIMA LX WERE MADE IN BOTH GEORGIA AND KOREA..... BUT ONLY SWP/3D/STM COLORS ARE MADE BOTH IN KOREA AND GEORGIA.

ALL LX COLOR DARK CHERRY, BLACK, METAL BRONZE, REMINGTON RED, SPICY RED ARE MADE IN GEORGIA.

ALL OPTIMA HYBRID REGARDLESS OR YEAR OR EQUIPMENT ARE MADE IN KOREA"



It seems like the 2012+ EX/SX models were made in Georgia. 2011 was the only model year every Optima was made in Korea. I know I have yet to come across a 2014-2015 EX/SX that was built in Korea.
 

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Sheesh, unless the VIN plate has been removed from the dash or replaced with one with a different VIN--the first character of the VIN is all you need to see to determine if an Optima was Korea- or U.S.-built; if the very first character isn't a number then that right there tells you it wasn't assembled in NA, SA, or Down Under. Besides, what if someone decides to swap their U.S.-spec headlight housing for a Korea-spec one in their U.S.-spec Optima? And yes I realize that the headlight suggestion was offered so as to try to distingush a Korea-built Optima from afar...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Besides, what if someone decides to swap their U.S.-spec headlight housing for a Korea-spec one in their U.S.-spec Optima?
I hope nobody would swap out headlights just to have the chrome strip in them. If someone was to swap them out hopefully they’d be going with the headlights that have the LED positioning lights.

The only way I see a car having incorrect headlights would be if it was a in a front end accident and the body shop didn’t know the difference between the headlights.

This 14’ LX has the position lights so I’m assuming the previous owner changed them out because the LX isn’t supposed to have them.
247843
247844
247845
 

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Lots of good info here, but a little misinformation as well. Here are some facts I've come across over the years:

1) All 2011 Kia Optima models were made in S. Korea (Despite the destination country)

2) All 2011+ Kia Optima models destined for Canada are made in S. Korea. (Not sure if that is still the case today)

3) All early build 2012 Optima models are also made in S. Korea. (Up until June 2012 I beleive)

4) As far as I know, there was never an LX/EX model made for the Korean Domestic Market in Korea. (Only the SX Turbo model)

5) We do not use the headlights or the 1st digit of the VIN to identify where it was built, but rather the 7th to last digit of the VIN.

6) All 7th to last digits of the VIN that start with a "G" (Which stands for Georgia) identify the vehicle was made here in the US.

7) All 7th to last digits of the VIN that start with the number "5" were made in S. Korea.

8) The Optima photos in post #10 have US spec headlights off of a 2014-2015 Optima SX Turbo model
 

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To expound on one of David's points:

"5) We do not use the headlights or the 1st digit of the VIN to identify where it was built, but rather the 7th to last digit of the VIN."--just to be clear it should read "7th to the last digit", meaning "the 7th" digit he's referring to is the 11th character in the VIN. Having said that, it should be made clear as to what the first 1-3 characters of the VIN represent vs. that of the 11th character--the first three characters in the VIN designate the country and manufacturer of the vehicle--in my case, the first three letters of the VIN from my 2018 Optima are "5XX" which means that it was manufactured by Kia in the USA, with the "5" representing United States (1 and 4 are also valid first-character USA country of origin designations, and the second character represents the vehicle manufacturer name--no idea why X stands for Kia), while the 11th character represents the vehicle assembly plant, which my VIN shows as "G" so David is correct in regards to where exactly my car was assembled. At the same time however, technically the first few characters can also be used to determine where the vehicle was manufactured, albeit at the country level vs. the assembly plant location where the vehicle was put together.

Since the discussion in this thread was about how to determine which country an Optima was built in, the first (or first three) characters of the VIN will suffice. After all, hypothetically speaking a foreigner who may have no clue that Georgia is a state in the USA would not be able to ascertain that a vehicle with a VIN with a "G" in the 7th to the last character position (i.e., 11th character) was assembled in the USA; heck for all we know maybe he thinks the "G" stands for "Gangnam" which is a district in Korea, thus believing that the vehicle was built in Korea--LOL.
 

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If you want to run your VIN through a basic VIN decoder, the NHTSA site (for U.S. folks) has one:

NHTSA VIN Decoder

It is very basic as far as available info is concerned but it does report on both country and assembly plant location.
 

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this has been a very interesting read, looked up my VIN and found out my 2015 Kia optima was made in Korea
Now I must ask this ignorant question, which are better built Kia optima that has Been built in the United States or South Korea??
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
this has been a very interesting read, looked up my VIN and found out my 2015 Kia optima was made in Korea
Now I must ask this ignorant question, which are better built Kia optima that has Been built in the United States or South Korea??
As far as rattles and fit and finish, panel gaps, etc. I've noticed the Korean built ones are better in that aspect.

Most engine failures have been with US-made cars however I wouldn't say that the Korean built ones aren't prone to engine failures.

I know the US-built ones have more quality control issues (Example) shark fins falling off whereas the Korean built ones aren't as quick to fall off. I had a 2015 US-Built SXL Optima (for 5 days) and noticed it had bigger gaps, the material across the dash would flex if I moved it with my fingers, the rattles in the door panels, etc..

The Korean built cars were built with more "attention to detail" than the American built ones.
 
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