Netizens ask who paid for first lady's wardrobe
The Blue House shot down allegations that Kim used taxpayers' money to pay for her clothes Tuesday, saying the first lady always used her own money.
Some people online and on social media have accused Kim of using state coffers to finance the cost of her clothes, shoes, jewelry and accessories for five years.
In June 2018, the Korea Taxpayers' Association, a local civic group, filed a request with the Blue House to disclose data on how much it spent on the first lady's wardrobe and for special intelligence-related purposes. Specifically, it asked the Blue House to disclose any special activity expenses used for Kim, with dates and the purposes.
Special activity expenses are usually allotted to government agencies for intelligence-related purposes. Information on where and how they are spent is confidential.
The Blue House refused to share the information, citing "national security issues." The association later filed a lawsuit against the Blue House.
In early February, the Seoul Administrative Court ruled partly in favor of the association, saying that some of the expenditure information requested by the group should be disclosed by the Blue House. The Blue House was also ordered to pay the legal costs of the suit.
On March 2, the Blue House appealed the ruling, saying that such a disclosure could undermine the public interest.
Tens of thousands of people have signed online Blue House petitions in recent days asking the administration to disclose how much it spent on special activity expenses for Kim and to address allegations that the first lady spent billions of won of taxpayer money on clothing.
Online communities have noted that Kim rarely wears the same clothes twice and have tracked the high prices of some luxury pieces she has been seen in.
Last Friday, another civic group filed a complaint with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency that accused Kim of embezzlement and violating a law that deals with national economic ethics.
On Monday, Chung Mi-kyung, a supreme council member of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), said in a party meeting, "Is the cost of first lady Kim's clothes a state secret? If so, all her clothes, accessories, handbags and shoes should be returned at the end of her tenure."
Chung added that in recent days, many people asked her if the first lady's brooch is "really worth more than 200 million won ($163,000)?" She was referring to a brooch worn by Kim in July 2018 that people claimed online was Cartier and would have cost a lot.
Shin Hye-hyun, a Blue House deputy spokesperson, said in a briefing Tuesday that the first lady, as the president's spouse, "has never used state funds, including special activity expenses, for the purpose of purchasing clothes."
Shin continued, "With regard to the groundless claims that clothes of first lady Kim Jung-sook for official events were purchased with special activity expenses, these are not true at all."
Expenses for diplomatic activities of the president and first lady for official events such as summits, overseas visits and invitations for foreign guests "undergo strict internal review and are subsidized at the bare minimum," she said.
Shin added, "It is regrettable that some people are making unreasonable claims that are different from the truth, taking advantage of the fact that it is difficult to disclose the special expenses of the presidential secretariat for defense, diplomacy and security reasons."
A senior Blue House official told reporters that sponsored outfits worn by the first lady during international events and summits were either donated or returned to brands by Kim.
The official also denied the brooch being talked about was from Cartier.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]