South Korea: Handbag corruption caught in the president

Yun's party is struggling to win a majority in parliament in this election. According to the Wall Street Journal, the opposition is now using the incident to attack Yun as the People's Power Party (PPP) is divided over how to respond, the newspaper continued.

Some members called on First Lady Kim to apologize and called her “Marie-Antoinette”, while others defended her and criticized the video recording as a “spy camera trap”. Yoon and interim party leader Han Dong Hoon have been at loggerheads over the practice. Han apologizes to the President.

IMAGO/Penta Press/Seokyong Lee

The President's wife, Kim Kyon Hee

Opposition parties demand clarification

According to the Korea Times, the conflict between the two leading PPP politicians subsided after the weekend in view of the election, the newspaper said. The two appeared together to show solidarity to the outside world by visiting the site of an accident in southern Chungcheong province on Tuesday, the newspaper continued.

Meanwhile, the opposition called on the president's office to explain Kim's violation of South Korea's anti-corruption law. According to the law applicable to civil servants and their spouses, the limits for one gift are equal to about 690 euros, and the total amount accepted per year cannot exceed 2,000 euros.

Party leader Han Dong-hoon and President Yoon Suk-yeol

IMAGO/Newscom/Yonhap News

PPP Chairman Han Dong Hoon greets President Yoon Suk Yeol as he visits the crash site on Tuesday

Corruption can cost votes

As the Korea Times wrote, the luxury handbag was presented to Kim in 2022 by American-Korean priest Abraham Choi, who secretly filmed him handing over the bag. According to the WSJ, Voice of Seoul, a news website that published the video in November, has now filed a complaint with the relevant authorities, accusing the first lady of taking bribes. The citizens' group also contacted the anti-corruption agency and called for an investigation.

Meanwhile, the presidential office has been quiet, much to the chagrin of parts of Yun's party. According to political experts, the PPP will lose votes in April and thus the expected electoral victory.

Party leader Han Dong-hoon

IMAGO/Newscom/Yonhap News

PPP leader Han addresses

In a poll released Wednesday by Embryn Public on behalf of cable news channel YTN, a total of 69 percent of 1,000 voting-age respondents agreed that Yoon should publicly comment on the scandal surrounding his wife, the Korea Times reported. In Yun's conservative ruling party, however, polls showed a real split: 46 percent were in favor and 47 percent were against.

Pastor: Luxuries are “like an entry ticket”

Pastor Choi, who secretly filmed the handover of the bags, spoke on Tuesday and described how the handover took place. Choi engaged in religious exchanges with North Korea and advocated cooperation with the government in Pyongyang. He initially sought a meeting with Kim because he was concerned about Yun's tough North Korea policy, Choi told Reuters in an interview.

Choi is familiar with Kim's family. Kim's reaction to the discussion of possible luxury gifts was that she believed she could use luxury items to get his attention. “You could say they are like a ticket, a ticket to meet (with Kim),” Choi said on Tuesday.

A date for handover has been agreed upon

After the initial meeting, he said he was concerned about Kim's role in the government and filmed him accepting the expensive bag on a second visit with a reporter from the YouTube channel Voice of Seoul. Voice of Seoul broadcasts left-wing news and commentary, and the pastor explained his desire for a YouTube channel.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol

AP/Office of the President of South Korea

President Yoon is embroiled in a prize scandal

He had made an appointment to hand over a luxury handbag, which made him even more suspicious. “A normal person would say, 'Government, I can't see you if you want to do that.' But the first lady gave me space and time,” Choi said Tuesday.

And corruption can catch up with Kim

Yoon's office also declined to comment on the detailed allegations, Reuters reported. However, an unnamed official close to the president told Korean news agency Yonhap last week that, according to Reuters, Choi deliberately contacted Kim and filmed the gift-giving illegally using his family connections. Gifts to the Presidential couple will be treated as government property and protected.

Another issue may involve the president's wife, Kim, and Yoon and the PPP may need complications and explanations. Allegations of stock price manipulation some twelve years ago could catch up with the presidential couple. The opposition-controlled parliament last month voted to launch an investigation by a special prosecutor.

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