Pressure Mounts on South Korean First Lady Kim Keon-hee as Ruling Party Urges Apology over Dior Handbag Controversy

The controversy, fueled by a liberal YouTube news channel, Voice of Seoul, is gaining momentum.

In the run-up to the April general elections, the South Korean ruling People Power Party (PPP) faces internal dissent over a controversial Dior handbag allegedly gifted to the first lady, Kim Keon-hee. The controversy, fueled by a liberal YouTube news channel, Voice of Seoul, is gaining momentum, prompting calls for President Yoon Suk-yeol to address the public.

South Korean first lady

In 2022, a video surfaced showing the first lady receiving a Christian Dior handbag worth approximately 3 million won from a Korean-American pastor. The footage, released by Voice of Seoul in November, claims the pastor used a hidden camera disguised as a watch. The PPP initially dismissed it as a set-up, but new party members are challenging this narrative.

Recently, PPP interim leader Han Dong-hoon acknowledged the controversy's public concern, signaling a shift from the party's earlier stance. Some party members are drawing historical parallels, with Kim Kyung-yul comparing Kim to Marie Antoinette and urging the first lady to address the issue publicly.

Prominent figures within the PPP, including criminal psychologist Lee Soo-jung, are urging Kim to explain the situation, return the gift, and issue a public apology. This marks a departure from the party's earlier position that the controversy was a planned set-up and Kim was a victim.

Election Concerns

With the general elections approaching, there are concerns within the PPP that negative public sentiment in Seoul and surrounding areas could impact swing voters. Lawmaker Ha Tae-keung emphasized the need for the first lady to apologize, acknowledging the risks involved and highlighting the opposition's strategy to make the elections about Kim.

Presidential Office's Dilemma

The presidential office is reportedly undecided about President Yoon holding a press conference. There are fears of facing questions about the handbag controversy and the president's veto on the special counsel probe bill. The hesitation reflects concerns about potential negative publicity and detailed questioning during a press conference.

As the controversy unfolds, the PPP finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with internal divisions and external challenges. The party's response to the first lady's Dior handbag controversy may play a crucial role in shaping public opinion leading up to the April elections.