Posts falsely accuse South Korean first lady of 'gloves protocol violation' during US visit

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on May 2, 2023 at 11:09
  • 3 min read
  • By AFP South Korea
Three photos of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol with first lady Kim Keon-hee during a state visit to the United States have been shared repeatedly in social media posts that falsely claim she violated "official protocol" by wearing gloves. In fact, according to South Korea's interior ministry and foreign ministry, no such rule prohibits South Korean leaders or their partners from wearing gloves on official engagements.

"Once again she proved that she is an attention hogger. According to South Korea's official protocol, she should not wear gloves. What a great way to show she is a partner of a global doormat," reads the Korean-language post shared on Facebook on April 27.

It was accompanied by three photos of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol with first lady Kim Keon-hee arriving at the White House in Washington, DC on April 26.

A reverse image search on Google found the images were taken from a livestream video of the welcome ceremony published on Yoon's official YouTube channel on the same day (archived link).

Kim's black gloves have been circled in red in the false posts, as shown below:

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on May 1, 2023.

During the six-day summit, Yoon and US President Joe Biden adopted the "Washington Declaration," a joint statement committing the US to a series of measures to better defend South Korea against the nuclear threats of North Korea, AFP reported (archived link).

The same photos were shared alongside a similar false claim on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments on the false posts show some users were misled by the claim about Kim, who has been a target of other misleading claims debunked here and here by AFP.

"It simply shows how ignorant she is about common etiquette and protocol. What a shame," one user wrote.

"Shaking hands with gloves on? That's so rude. It just makes me baffled," another said.

No rules on gloves

However, an official at South Korea's Ministry of the Interior and Safety told AFP on May 1 that there was no such rule against leaders or their partners wearing gloves at official meetings.

"There is no rule regarding gloves in the official protocol guidelines," they said.

A review of the guidelines published by South Korea's interior ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs found no mention of gloves (archived links here and here).

AFP found a document titled "Etiquette and Table Manners" published by the authorities in the city of Seongnam which suggests glove etiquette for South Koreans (archived link).

It advises people to remove their gloves when shaking hands but says it is not necessary if a lady is wearing a suit, as Kim did at the White House.

It reads in part: "It is the etiquette for both men and women to remove their gloves when shaking hands, but it is not necessary to do so when a lady is wearing a suit and is wearing long, elbow-length gloves and on the street."

Kim was previously pictured wearing gloves when she met King Felipe VI of Spain and his wife Queen Letizia during a five-day trip to Madrid for a NATO summit in June 2022 (archived link).

Below is a screenshot of the photo -- credited to South Korean media agency News1 -- in the report by Korea JoongAng Daily:


There is also no official rule against world leaders or their partners wearing gloves during official visits to South Korea.

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