First Lady Caught in a Comedy of Errors Featuring a Luxury Bag

A blatant violation of bribery laws and protocol.

First Lady Caught in a Comedy of Errors Featuring a Luxury Bag

Photo: First Lady Kim Geon-hee with the Dior bag received from a mole for the Youtube channel Voice of Seoul. Credit: Voice of Seoul.

President Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열’s wife Kim Geon-hee 김건희’s long rap sheet of white-collar crimes and overt interest in shamanism have long made her a political liability. (See previous coverage, “The First Lady’s Many Troubles.”) A video recently unearthed by the YouTube channel Voice of Seoul 서울의 소리 showing the First Lady accepting an expensive Dior clutch from a man posing as a supporter is adding yet another stain to her heavily tarnished record.

The video, released on November 28, shows Korean American pastor and North Korean human rights activist Choi Jae-yeong 최재영 visiting Kim at her office in September 2022. Choi is seen sauntering past security and handing the luxury handbag to Kim, who responds with standard politesse (“Really I mean it, don’t bring these things anymore”) while accepting the bag. In a separate video, Voice of Seoul said it had purchased the bag for approximately KRW 3m (USD 2.3k), and arranged for Choi to deliver it while recording the video.

Kim’s acceptance of the clutch is a clear violation of the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act 부정청탁 금지법, more commonly known as the Kim Yeong-ran Act 김영란법 (so named after the former head of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission 국민권익위원회 who proposed the law,) which penalizes any gift valued at over KRW 1m (USD 750) to a spouse of a public official regardless of intent. The same law also requires any public official made aware of such a gift to promptly report and return the gift. The Office of the President 대통령실, however, has refused to acknowledge the video.

Even the conservatives are turning on the First Lady as her troubles mount. Chosun Ilbo 조선일보, the erstwhile water-carrier of the Yoon administration, has issued not one but two op-eds criticizing Kim, and the Dong-A Ilbo 동아일보 ran a blistering op-ed with the headline Conservatives Cannot Keep Carrying the ‘Kim Geon-hee Risk’. The Democratic Party 민주당, meanwhile, is preparing to pass a law that would mandate a special prosecutor investigation into the Deutsch Motors 도이치 모터스 stock manipulation scheme, one of many white-collar crimes in which Kim is implicated. Even in the arch-conservative city of Daegu 대구, 67% of respondents said in a poll that the president should not veto the law.

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