A Van Cleef & Arpels necklace (6.2 million yen), a Tiffany & Co. brooch (2.68 million yen), and a Cartier bracelet (1.55 million yen).
The accessories worn by the first lady during her visit to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in June are causing controversy in South Korea. Opposition lawmakers questioned the president’s accessorizing at a National Assembly Steering Committee plenary session on August 30, saying, “The bracelets are not the only ones that are controversial in South Korea.”
At a plenary session of the National Assembly Steering Committee on August 30, an opposition lawmaker asked, “President Yun Suk-yeol’s declared assets did not include any jewelry (worn by his wife), but did you check? Did you check?
The first lady’s side had a difficult time responding to this questioning.
First Lady Kim Keon-hee (49) is growing in popularity. Last December, a fan site, “Keon-Sarang (I love you, Keon-Sarang),” was launched. Initially, the site had about 30,000 members, but since May of this year, when Yun assumed the presidency, the number has surpassed 90,000. Currently, the number is approaching 100,000.
Even after becoming First Lady, Yun’s popular behavior, such as taking out meals at a downtown market, has won her support. She also casually discloses her personal life on her Instagram. Her favorite white sandals (approx. 3,500 yen) and skirt (approx. 5,500 yen) on her Instagram became the talk of the town and sold out at various stores. They are so popular that a search for “Kim Keon-hee” on a major Korean online shopping site turns up more than 2,500 hits.
Apology for False Career Record
On the other hand, there is also strong opposition. The spark that has ignited a firestorm is her own scandal that was uncovered during the presidential election campaign.
In December of last year, she was forced to apologize after allegations of falsifying her resume came to light. When Mrs. Kim, who is also a painter, applied for a position as a visiting professor at a private university in 2007, she put false information about her career on her application form. She honestly admitted her lies and bowed her head, putting an end to the issue.
In May, however, the Korean police announced that they would conduct a written investigation of Mrs. Kim for false background. The director of the Seoul Police Department went out of his way to state, “We are not assuming that there is no suspicion. No suspicion’ is one of the reasons for not filing an indictment. There is widespread speculation among the public that Mrs. Kim was able to get away with the crime because she became the First Lady and took power. There are even posts on the Internet saying, ‘I am disappointed in Mrs. Kim.'”
Let us return to the opposition lawmakers’ pursuit at the beginning of this article. When it was pointed out that expensive accessories worn on her outings may have been undeclared, the secretary of the president’s office responded on behalf of the wife, saying, “Two of the three accessories were not declared.”
Two of the three accessories were borrowed by her from acquaintances. The other was purchased from a vendor, but the amount was too small to be included in the assets declaration.
The secretary, however, has not clarified who the “acquaintance” is or whether there is an IOU or not. The opposition fiercely protested.
The opposition is furious: “Would the first lady go out of her way to borrow a piece of jewelry from an acquaintance? Because she lies, allegations keep popping up one after another, like a string of beads. If she had simply apologized and said, ‘It was my mistake for not declaring my income,’ the problem wouldn’t have grown any bigger.”
It is not only members of the opposition who are not satisfied with the explanation given by the wife. The public’s demand for the truth is growing louder as the day goes by.