The first lady must keep her distanceOn Wednesday, when the People Power Party, government, and presidential office went into an emergency state in the face of “composite economic crisis,” President Yoon Suk-yeol received eight questions from reporters. Four of them were on the first lady Kim Keon-hee. Kim caused another controversy by taking a staffer of the gallery she ran to her courtesy call to the widow of former president Roh Moo-hyun in Bongha Village. She took a private acquaintance to a public occasion.
“As I am still new to the presidential office, I am unsure of what a presidential wife can do and cannot. I will pay heed to the opinions of the people to address the issues,” said Yoon. “Since she does not have her secretaries — and cannot go around alone — please give me some ideas.” That hardly can be a normal situation.
The attention on Kim has been too excessive, but she is also to be blamed. Kim has stirred controversy during Yoon’s campaign. She had been accused of falsely representing her credentials and exchanging incomprehensible conversations with a media outlet of a certain ideology more than 50 times. As a result, she had to apologize as the wife of a presidential candidate.
Kim promised to keep her role to a housewife and maintain a low profile so as not to irk the public and repent for her past wrongdoings. The people are yet to forgive her, as a poll showed that 60.5 percent believed she should keep her role to her house.
Yet she has broken her promise. She not just went on a highly-publicized visit to the widow of the late but still-popular liberal president, but interviewed with a media outlet of distinctive ideology and even shared a picture of her in the presidential office with her pet dog on her fan club social media. Such behaviors of a first lady were unthinkable before Kim. The operator of her fan club site vented insults at anyone critical of her. The person who accompanied Kim to Bongha Village was also confirmed to have had served at the campaign team and transition committee. Such deeds cannot be described as “low profile.”
The wife of a presidential inevitably would wield influence. She needs to get some government assistance for public activities, although Yoon has already declared not to run a secretariat for his wife. Yet Kim should not be suspected of private networking. She must keep distance with her fan club if she does not want to become a risk to Yoon’s presidency. The country cannot afford more gossip about the first lady when it grapples with a crisis on the economic and security fronts.