In his first public response to the recent release of the hidden camera footage where South Korea’s first lady, Kim Keon Hee, was seen accepting a luxury designer handbag as a gift, President Yoon Suk Yeol on Wednesday (Feb 8) called it a “political manoeuvre”.
However, he assured that clearer lines would be drawn in order to ensure such incidents do not happen in future.
During his interview with broadcaster KBS, Yoon stated that the footage, which was filmed in September 2022, and released in November 2023, just before elections in the country, should be considered as “a political manoeuvre”.
“However, it’s not important whether to call it a political manoeuvre or not,” he said. “What’s important is to set clearer boundaries with others to prevent something like this from happening in the future.”
The pastor, who offered the Dior handbag worth 3 million won ($2,250) and secretly captured the act, claimed to have ties with Kim’s father who passed away when she was a child, claimed Yoon.
He further said that the fact he was living in their private home ahead of shifting to a newly constructed presidential residence may also have added to the confusion about how the gifts should have been handled.
‘Dior bag scandal’
The pastor, Reverend Abraham Choi, who presented the gift to the first lady, earlier told the news agency Reuters that he wanted to raise concerns about Yoon’s hawkish North Korea policies and that offering expensive gifts seemed to be the way to secure a meeting with Kim Keon Hee.
Choi used a wristwatch to record himself presenting the designer handbag to Hee, who is heard saying “please don’t buy an expensive item like this” in the footage.
However, she is not seen returning the handbag.
Accepting the gift is a breach of South Korean law where public officials and their spouses cannot accept gifts worth more than $750.
News agency AFP, citing a report from Yonhap News Agency, said that the gift was being “stored according to the relevant regulations”.
After the incident came to light, members of Yoon’s conservative People Power Party (PPP) urged the president and his wife to issue an apology and admit that receiving the gift was inappropriate.
(With inputs from agencies)