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South Korea’s First Lady criticised for ‘playing Audrey Hepburn’

SEOUL – South Korea’s First Lady Kim Keon-hee came under fire from the opposition over her activities in Cambodia, where she accompanied President Yoon Suk-yeol for the Asean meeting this week.

During her trip, Ms Kim declined to attend a cultural event arranged by the Cambodian government for the spouses of attending state leaders. Instead, she visited a young heart patient at a hospital as well as at the patient’s home.

Her actions were made public through a series of photographs, which the opposition bloc said were too staged. In the photos released by the presidential office, the First Lady is seen carrying the child in her arms or holding him on her lap.

“She made her way to a patient’s house to play an ‘Audrey Hepburn’ instead of attending an official event for summit’s spouses, wearing a Jaqueline Kennedy-like sleeveless dress,” former chief of National Intelligence Service Park Ji-won said on a local radio broadcasting on Monday morning.

According to The Korea Times, Ms Kim was wearing a black short-sleeved polo-style shirt and white pants while holding the sick boy in her arms and staring into the distance. Netizens soon compared this photo with Hepburn’s photo taken during her visit to a Unicef-assisted feeding centre in Somalia in 1992.

In the 1992 photo, Hepburn was wearing a dark polo-style shirt and light-coloured chino pants, staring into the distance while holding a child in her arms. Netizens and opposition lawmakers accused the First Lady of mimicking the British actress.

“If you want to emulate someone, try to emulate their spirit and sacrifices, not their pose or attire,” Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) lawmaker Kim Yong-min wrote on Facebook. 

Former DPK lawmaker Kim Jin-ae said: “It is improper of her to deny an official schedule for presidents’ spouses in the diplomatic scene. She is a public figure, not just a celebrity.”

The ruling People Power Party (PPP), for its part, hit back at the opposition, citing former first lady Kim Jung-sook’s Taj Mahal tour during former president Moon Jae-in’s visit to India in 2018.

“It is absurd they only praise what Kim Jung-sook did while taking fault in what Kim Keon-hee does,” lawmaker Kim Ki-hyeon said on Facebook.

“A first lady who comes together with neighbours in difficulty, doing good like Audrey Hepburn, is a thousand times better than a ‘tourist first lady’,” he added.

This is not the first time that Ms Kim Keon-hee has found herself mired in criticism for being accused of impersonating the iconic styles of famous women in official photos taken by the presidential office, The Korea Times reported.

In September, online posts went viral comparing Ms Kim’s photographs taken during President Yoon’s overseas trips with photographs of Jacqueline Kennedy, the first lady of former US president John F. Kennedy.

Meanwhile, an opposition lawmaker is in the hot seat after he used the phrase “poverty porn” to describe Ms Kim, who released photos of her philanthropic work in Cambodia.

Mr Jang Kyung-tae of the DPK said on Wednesday that he will “consider expressing regret” if the First Lady was upset by his recent comment, while fending off the ruling PPP’s criticism that it was an obscene and anti-feminist expression.

On Monday, Mr Jang criticised Ms Kim for “shooting poverty porn” while on an official visit to Cambodia.

In a media interview, Mr Jang claimed “poverty porn” is an academic term. It is used in reference to a type of media, written, photographed or filmed, that exploits the poor’s condition for a specific purpose, whether it be generating sympathy or raising support for an individual or a given cause. THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Source : The Straits Times