Posts target South Korea's first lady with false claim she handled museum artefacts without gloves
Facebook and YouTube posts showing photos of South Korea's first lady Kim Keon-hee at the National Museum of Korea falsely accuse her of touching historical documents without gloves. Kim was in fact handling replicas of artefacts, not originals, and memorabilia sold at the museum's gift shop.
"Kim Keon-hee touching [documents] with her bare hands during a viewing of the Oegyujanggak Uigwe," reads Korean text on a YouTube Short posted on February 22
The Oegyujanggak Uigwe is a collection of court texts and elaborate drawings, some dating back to the 15th century, describing protocol for state events and ceremonies.
Kim visited the collection on February 23 during a visit to the National Museum of Korea.
The YouTube Short shows four photos of Kim leafing through books and touching a decorative folding screen. Her hands are circled to highlight the fact she is handling the objects with her bare hands.
Kim is regularly targeted by misinformation, especially from critics of her husband President Yoon Suk Yeol's government. AFP has previously debunked false claims she fell asleep during one of her husband's speeches and was photographed doing 'community service' cleaning up after a flood.
The pictures of Kim apparently touching museum artefacts circulated in various, including here, here, and here, prompting outrage among some Facebook users.
"So ignorant. How come she didn't wear gloves while touching the national treasures?" one person commented.
"She clearly is spoiled and has no shame in her behaviour," another wrote.
A representative for the National Museum of Korea said the photos did not show Kim touching historical artefacts.
"The objects [Kim] is handling in the photos are not original documents, which are only handled by professionals at the museum and displayed behind glass at the exhibition," the spokesperson told AFP on February 24.
The book that Kim can be seen browsing in the first and fourth photos is "a replica of one of the Uigwe books, which we specially created so that museum visitors can browse through and examine the illustrations for themselves".
South Korean news wire News1 published the same photos of Kim looking at the book here and here, alongside photo captions that said the pictures showed "a replica of a book called 'Uigwe (Gisa jinpyori jinchan uigwe)'", referring to the book's official title.
The book contains records and illustrations of a banquet prepared by King Sunjo in 1809 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his grandmother's selection as princess consort, according to a description inscribed adjacent to the replica.
An AFP journalist visited the museum and found the replica of the book, with a museum guide pointing to a video displayed showing visitors how it was made.
The exhibition also featured dozens of original Uigwe books placed behind glass displays that visitors could not touch.
Gift shop items
Meanwhile, the folding screen that Kim is seen touching in the photo is an item in the museum's gift shop.
The folding screen featuring illustrations from 15th and 18th century royal courts is on sale at the gift shop for approximately 1.6 million won ($1,200).
The museum's spokesperson confirmed that the folding screen that Kim is seen touching in the video is "an object sold at the museum's gift shop".
News1 published the same photo with the caption: "First lady Kim Keon-hee examines a mini folding screen at the gift shop during a visit to the special exhibition of the Oegyujanggak Uigwe at the National Museum of Korea in Yongsan District, Seoul, on the 21st."
Below is a photo of folding screen on sale at museum gift shop taken by AFP.
Another smaller book Kim can be seen browsing through in the third photo from the YouTube video is an art brochure on display at in the exhibition, according to the spokesperson.
News1's photo of the same object reads: "Kim Keon-hee browses through a registrar of exhibition objects at the museum's gift shop."
AFP found the same books -- all of them about Uigwe artefacts -- on display in the museum gift shop.
Meanwhile, Kim can be seen looking at the original Uigwe books on display behind glass at the exhibition in other photos published by the South Korean presidential office and News1.
Video footage of her visit to the museum was also published by multiple local media, including here, here and here, which also show she only viewed the originals on display without touching them.