The first lady of South Korea, Kim Keon Hee, has been embroiled in a controversy over a Dior bag that she allegedly received as a gift from a Korean American pastor, who secretly filmed her with a hidden camera.
The scandal, which has been dubbed as the “Dior bag scandal” by the local media, has damaged the image and reputation of South Korea abroad, and has cast a shadow over the presidency of Yoon Suk Yeol and his ruling party.
What is the Dior bag scandal and how did it unfold?
The Dior bag scandal is a controversy that emerged in November 2023, when a left-leaning YouTube-based news channel, Voice of Seoul, aired a video clip that showed Kim Keon Hee accepting a Christian Dior handbag worth about three million won ($2,250) from a pastor named Abraham Choi, who claimed to be a family acquaintance. The video was secretly recorded by Choi with a hidden camera, and was part of a sting operation that aimed to expose Kim’s influence and involvement in the administration.
Choi said that he initially sought a meeting with Kim out of concern for Yoon’s hardline policy on North Korea, and that he gave her Chanel cosmetics as a “ticket” for the meeting. However, he said that he became suspicious of Kim’s role and motives, and decided to work with Voice of Seoul to film her accepting the Dior bag, which he said was a “trap” to test her integrity.
Kim and Yoon denied any wrongdoing, and said that Choi had deliberately approached Kim with the intention of illegally filming and blackmailing her, and that the gifts were handled and stored as property of the government. They also accused Voice of Seoul of being biased and politicized, and of violating their privacy and dignity.
How did the scandal affect South Korea’s image abroad?
The scandal has affected South Korea’s image abroad in several ways, such as:
The scandal has tarnished the credibility and trustworthiness of South Korea as a democratic and law-abiding nation, and has raised doubts about the transparency and accountability of its political system and leaders. The scandal has also exposed the weaknesses and loopholes of its anti-corruption and anti-bribery laws, and has highlighted the need for more reforms and regulations to prevent and punish such practices.
The scandal has damaged the reputation and popularity of Yoon and his ruling party, the People Power Party (PPP), and has undermined their chances of winning the upcoming parliamentary election in April 2024. The scandal has also deepened the divisions and conflicts within the party, as some members have called for Kim to apologize and admit her mistake, while others have defended and supported her. The scandal has also given an advantage to the opposition parties, especially the Democratic Party, which has criticized and condemned Yoon and Kim for their actions.
The scandal has strained the relations and cooperation between South Korea and its allies and partners, especially the United States, which has been concerned about Yoon’s policy on North Korea and China. The scandal has also raised questions about the credibility and reliability of South Korea as an ally and a partner, and has affected its role and influence in the region and the world. The scandal has also provided an opportunity for its adversaries and rivals, especially North Korea and China, to mock and attack South Korea and its leaders.