June 13, 2024

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Corruption in South Korea: First Lady Accepts Expensive Gifts

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South Korea“Dashley-Kate” surrounding the first lady: Records spark political scandal

The South Korean first lady received a Dior handbag from a pastor. But this comes under the country's anti-bribery laws.

Reto Polman
Van
  • Despite breaking the law, the South Korean first lady reportedly accepted a luxury bag as a gift.

  • Now the ruling party fears that it will have a negative impact on future election results.

  • This is not the first time the first lady has been in controversy.

A luxury handbag worth the equivalent of 1,950 francs has become a political issue in South Korea and threatens to spell doom for the ruling party. The president is said to be grappling with his party colleagues on how to respond to the defamatory video about his wife. South Korea gets its own “Täschli-Gate”, ten years after the incident with Oprah Winfrey in Zurich.

What happened?

The scandal revolves around a video taken in September 2022. It shows South Korean First Lady Kim Kyung-hee accepting a handbag from Christian Dior. However, according to the allegations, he should not have accepted the gift in his post. Kim violated anti-bribery laws.

What can be seen in the video?

It shows Korean-American preacher Choi Jae-young going to a Christian Dior store to buy a handbag – with receipts costing three million won (about 1,950 francs). Choi is also seen entering the offices of Gowana Contents, an exhibition planning company in Seoul owned by First Lady Kim. Inside he meets the first lady and hands her a shopping bag with a Dior print. In response, Kim could be heard replying in Korean: “Don't do it again.” Also: “Don't buy anything that expensive.”

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The video, secretly filmed by the priest, was released in November by the left-wing YouTube site “Voice of Seoul News.”

Why is this a problem?

Under South Korea's anti-bribery law, it is illegal for civil servants and their spouses to receive gifts worth up to one million South Korean won (about 650 francs) at one time, or a total of three million won in a tax year.

What are the reactions?

According to reports, “Voice of Seoul” initially filed a complaint with South Korean authorities. Yoon and Kim have both been charged with bribery. A citizens' group filed a complaint with the country's Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission in December, calling for an investigation into Kim's possible violation.

The incident has sparked debates and tensions within the president's party, as the scandal could have a negative impact on the outcome of the next election.

How Controversial Is South Korea's First Lady?

First Lady Kim has had her share of controversies in the past. Even before Yoon became president, Kim publicly apologized for overstating his credentials on his resume during his campaign. In 2022, allegations emerged that Kim had plagiarized his doctoral thesis and other academic publications during his time at the university.

Kim faces tax evasion charges after a court ruled in February that his and his mother's accounts were involved in a stock price manipulation scandal.