Image: Chosun Ilbo web article screen cap. Credit: Chosun Ilbo.
Conservative press went abuzz over a photo of Vice Minister of Justice Kang Seong-guk 강성국 법무부차관, who was giving a press conference on August 27 regarding the 391 Afghan evacuees from Operation Miracle in the rain. The photo showed a minor Justice Ministry official holding up an umbrella while kneeling behind the Vice Minister.
The opinion page of Chosun Ilbo 조선일보, the leading conservative daily, thundered in its headline: “How Could This Happen in the 21st Century Government of the Republic of Korea?”, with a pearl-clutching article that decried the Moon Jae-in 문재인 administration’s supposedly authoritarian attitude, especially in a press conference regarding human rights. The photo circulated alongside a photo of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un 김정은 holding his own umbrella, to imply that the Moon administration was stiffer than Pyongyang’s dictatorship.
Video of the event, however, showed that the minor official was following the instructions of the press, rather than the vice minister. The official was initially standing next to the vice minister with the umbrella, when the journalists yelled at him to get out of the picture. The official attempted to hide behind the vice minister while still holding up the umbrella, and the journalists continued to yell at him to get lower until the official was kneeling on the ground. Vice Minister Kang issued an apology statement regardless.