Image of South Korea's Moon Jae-in was doctored to include book calling him 'the dog of North Korea'

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A doctored image has been shared in multiple social media posts that claim it shows former South Korean president Moon Jae-in posing with a book that calls him "the dog of North Korea". Moon was criticised during his tenure for his ultimately unsuccessful diplomatic attempts at engagement with Pyongyang, and this criticism has continued since he left office. The photo that was altered and falsely shared online in fact shows the ex-president holding up a book about South Korean history.

The image of Moon holding a Japanese-language publication featuring sexually explicit headlines was shared on Facebook here on January 25, 2023.

Its Korean-language caption says the title of the book is "The Dog of North Korea: A Study of South Korea's President Moon Jae-in".

"This guy must be mad to be promoting this book. Hey idiot, are you proud? Is that why you're showing this book off?"

As president, Moon championed engagement with Pyongyang and his attempts at dialogue enraged many security hawks, but his diplomacy ultimately failed, with the North now more belligerent than ever.

Criticism targeting Moon has continued since he left office in May 2022, with protesters labelling him a "spy" and calling for him "to be deported to North Korea".

Screenshot of the altered image shared on Facebook, captured on January 26, 2023

The same image was shared alongside a similar claim on Facebook here and here, as well as on TikTok here.

Comments on the posts suggest several users believed the picture genuinely showed Moon posing with the Japanese publication.

One user wrote: "Crazy bastard. So you're that happy about being called North Korea's dog?"

"Either he is brainless, or he doesn't know basic Chinese characters. It looks like [Moon] is someone who lives without any thoughts," said another.

The picture, however, has been altered from a photo showing Moon holding a book about South Korean history.

'Post-liberation' history book

A reverse image search on Google led to a picture that accompanied an interview with Moon in the South Korean daily Hankyoreh on January 15.

An English-language version of the interview, containing similar photos, was published here.

In the interview, Moon speaks about his passion for reading and his plan to open a small bookstore in Pyeongsan -- where he has lived since he left office -- as a communal space to promote learning and help the local economy.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the doctored image shared on Facebook (left) and the photo published by Hankyoreh (right):

Screenshot comparison of the doctored image shared on Facebook (left) and the photo published by Hankyoreh (right)

The photo's caption reads, "Former president Moon Jae-in holds the book 'An Understanding of Post-Liberation History'".

"An Understanding of Post-Liberation History" is a compilation of essays about South Korean history between the country's liberation from Japanese rule and the Korean War that was first published in 1979.

In the photo, Moon is holding an edition of the book published in 1992, as seen here on South Korean online bookseller Yes24.

Tabloid magazine

A keyword search on Google led to the May 2018 issue of Japanese tabloid magazine, Jitsuwa BUNKA Taboo.

The cover of the issue, which can be seen listed on the magazine's official website, is the same as the publication seen in the doctored image of Moon.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the cover in the doctored photo shared on Facebook (left) and the cover of the issue listed on Amazon Japan (right):

Screenshot comparison of the cover in the doctored photo shared on Facebook (left) and the cover of the issue listed on Amazon Japan (right)

According to local media reports here and here, a head of a Seoul-based civic group critical of Moon distributed printed copies of this issue of the magazine near the country's parliament in September 2019.

Moon's presidential office called the publication a "far right Japanese magazine" and filed a criminal complaint against the suspect on grounds of defamation, but dropped the case in May 2021.

AFP has previously debunked false claims that accompanied doctored images of the ex-president shared by South Korean social media users here and here.