Yoon Suk-yeol Threw Out Books

But not bottles of whiskey.

Yoon Suk-yeol Threw Out Books

Photo: Books thrown out by Yoon Suk-yeol. Credit: MBC News.

Unlike his immediate predecessor, a voracious who went on to open a bookstore after his presidency, Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 is not known to be a reader. So deep is his bibliophobia that the Office of the President 대통령실 did not purchase a single book in the first ten months of his presidency, in contrast to the 482 volumes purchased by the Moon Jae-in 문재인 administration in the first seven months of his presidency. So perhaps it is unsurprising that as Yoon moved into his presidential residence, he threw away books.

On May 8, MBC News reported that a resident at Yoon’s former residence, a luxury high-rise condominium in Seocho-gu, Seoul 서울 서초구, discovered several boxes of books that Yoon apparently discarded. The resident, a bibliophile, is in the habit of rummaging through the condo’s recycling center for free books. Among the discarded books were autobiographies of military dictator Chun Doo-hwan 전두환 and former president Kim Young-sam 김영삼 that contained personal inscriptions to Yoon from Chun’s widow and Kim’s son. Yoon apparently discarded them when he moved into his official residence in November 2022, six months after taking office in May 2022.

The discarded books could betoken more than just embarrassment for Yoon: among the books are titles by Choi Jae-yeong 최재영, the Korean American pastor who was caught on film handing a Dior clutch to First Lady Kim Geon-hee 김건희 영부인, prompting a scandal that has kept Kim out of public view for several months. Choi has claimed that in addition to the luxury handbag, he previously gifted his books and an expensive bottle of whiskey to the president and the First Lady. The discarded books, which contain dated inscriptions from Choi, corroborate his claims.

The Yoon administration has claimed that the Dior clutch at the center of the scandal cannot be returned or shown in public, since - as a gift given to the president - the bag now belongs to the presidential archive. This has never been a particularly convincing claim - the status of “presidential gift” is typically reserved for gifts given by foreign dignitaries in their official capacities, rather than graft from glad-handing supplicants. But the discarded books tear away even this fig leaf, as they make it obvious that the presidential couple was less fastidious about the presidential archives for gifts that were not USD 2k+ luxury handbags.

In a cheeky dig at Yoon’s prodigious drinking habit, MBC News reported that the whereabouts of Choi’s other gift to Kim, a 27-year-old bottle of Dewars whiskey, remain unknown.

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