President Yoon apologizes over Dior bag scandal involving wife

By Park Sae-jin Posted : May 9, 2024, 19:09 Updated : May 10, 2024, 08:56
Citizens at Seoul Station watch President Yoon Suk-yeol speak during a news conference held at the presidential office in Seoul on May 9 2024 YONHAP-AJU PRESS
People watch President Yoon Suk Yeol's news conference at Seoul Station in Seoul on May 9, 2024. AJU PRESS Park Jong-hyeok

SEOUL, May 9 (AJU PRESS) - President Yoon Suk Yeol apologized Thursday over a luxury handbag scandal involving his wife that has plagued his administration into the second year in office.

“I apologize for causing concerns to the people with the unwise conduct of my wife,” Yoon said during a news conference.

But he refused to accept a special counsel investigation, pushed by opposition parties, into the case.

"I have consistently expressed my opinion that a special probe should be initiated only when there are suspicions of favoritism or negligence in the current investigation," he stated.

The controversy emerged in November 2023 when a Korean-American pastor revealed a spy camera video suggesting that first lady Kim Keon Hee received a 3 million won ($2,192) Christian Dior bag as a gift from him in 2022, potentially violating the nation’s anti-corruption law.

The prosecution has recently launched a belated probe into the case. Yoon refrained from commenting further, saying his remarks could be misconstrued as trying to influence the ongoing inquiry.

In a separate incident, the opposition Democratic Party (DP) passed a bill at the end of last year mandating an independent counsel investigation into Kim‘s alleged involvement in stock manipulation. Yoon vetoed the legislation in early January.

The DP has threatened to push for a new bill for independent probes into both cases in the next-term National Assembly. The DP and its liberal allies secured about 190 seats in the 300-member legislature in the April 10 general elections.

Yoon suggested he may reject another legislation for an independent counsel investigation into the government's alleged attempts to interfere with a Marines’ probe into the drowning of a young Marine during a rescue operation last summer. The National Assembly passed the proposal early this month.

During the press conference, his first since August 2022, the president unveiled plans to establish a new ministry to deal with the nation’s low fertility. The chief of the envisioned ministry will double as deputy prime minister on social issues, he said.

The media event came after he recently vowed to improve communication with the public in the aftermath of the ruling People Power Party (PPP)'s devastating defeat in the elections, which were widely viewed as a mid-term referendum on Yoon.

Rival parties showed mixed reactions after the press conference. The main DP criticized the president for his apparent lack of remorse regarding his failure in state affairs, while the PPP commented that Yoon honestly acknowledged his shortcomings over the past two years.

Amid concerns that he may spend the remainder of his term as a lame duck, Yoon had his first one-to-one meeting with the main opposition Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung last week, just a few days ahead of the press conference.

Although the talks ended without any specific outcomes with both sides being unable to find common ground, it was interpreted by many as a conciliatory move aimed at obtaining cooperation from the DP.
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