Photo: Kim Geon-hee poses with a dog. Credit: Presidential transition committee.
A major part of being the president is public eating. The president’s lunch companions and his conversations with them are newsworthy. But with the president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 당선인, South Korean media has been obsessing over everything he eats, even when the occasion is as mundane as Yoon meeting with his staff.
According to an analysis by Citizens’ Coalition for Democratic Media 민주언론시민연합, simply reading the news about the president-elect from major news outlets, including Yonhap News 연합뉴스, JoongAng Ilbo 중앙일보 and Kukmin Ilbo 국민일보, is sufficient to reconstruct Yoon’s lunch menu every single day since the presidential election.
The March 18 article from News1 reads like the children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar: “On March 14, president-elect Yoon visited Seoul’s Namdaemun Market 남대문시장 and had a bowl of ox tail soup . . . On March 15, he had noodles at a Chinese restaurant that gave free food to firefighters . . . On March 16, Yoon had kimchi jjigae 김치찌개 with [the members of the transition committee], and on March 17, he visited an Italian restaurant with [the transition committee].”
The manufactured buzz was even more absurd with Yoon’s wife Kim Geon-hee 김건희, an art curator who was a significant liability to her husband’s presidential campaign because of her alleged involvement in a stock manipulation scheme as well as her thoroughly fake curriculum vitae. (See previous coverage, “The Spousal Risk.”) On April 5, Yonhap News published a brief article with a picture showing Kim embracing a police dog while wearing a hoodie and flip flops, with the photo credited to “a reader.”
According to an investigation by Media Today 미디어오늘, however, the photo was given to Yonhap by the presidential transition committee. Nevertheless, news outlets produced 318 articles in three days regarding Kim’s photo, adding little more to the fact that the First Lady-to-be was holding a dog.
But a few outlets took a step further. Chosun Ilbo 조선일보, South Korea’s largest newspaper, analyzed previous photos of Kim’s public appearances, and showed that Kim indeed wore the same hoodie two months ago. Korea Economic Daily 한국경제신문 reported that the flip flops Kim wore were approximately KRW 30k (USD 26), and had already sold out in several online malls.