Scandal in South Korea: first lady at heart of Dior bag controversy

The Dior Handbag Affair

In September 2022, Kim Keon-hee, the first lady of South Korea, became embroiled in a dispute known as the “Dior handbag affair.” She is accused of accepting a Dior bag valued at 2,000 euros, an act that allegedly breaks the law banning elected officials and their spouses from receiving gifts surpassing 700 euros.

Controversial History

The first lady has formerly faced several controversies, including accusations of tax evasion, securities fraud, resume falsification, and insider trading. Her husband, President Yoon Suk-yeol, has recently exerted his veto power to dismiss the charges against her.

The Defense of the Purse

The presidential office claims that the handbag was a gift to the state, not to Kim Keon-hee personally, and hence does not transgress the law. Nevertheless, this defence has been met with scepticism and disapproval by the public.

Tensions within the Conservative Party

This scandal has sparked tensions within the ruling Conservative Party. There are calls for the first lady to relinquish the bag and issue an apology, amidst worries that the president’s actions could harm the party’s standing.

Comparison with Marie Antoinette

Some have drawn parallels between Kim Keon-hee and Marie Antoinette, a comparison that some party members have decried as inappropriate and excessive. A recent poll suggests that 70% of South Koreans believe the first lady should publicly address the issue.

Impact on Legislative Elections

The timing of this affair is critical, taking place just two months before the legislative elections. The opposition, facing its challenges, views this scandal as a potential advantage.

The National Assembly is set to vote on initiating a new investigation against Kim Keon-hee, a move that, if met with a presidential veto, could carry important political repercussions.

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