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First lady quietly casts vote amid prolonged public absence

First lady Kim Keon Hee receives a ballot for the 2022 local elections at a polling station in central Seoul's Yongsan District, May 27, 2022, on the first day of early voting. Korea Times file

First lady Kim Keon Hee was found to have cast her ballot under the radar last week, as revealed by the presidential office.According to the presidential office, Tuesday, Kim voted at a polling station near the presidential residence in Yongsan, Friday, the first day of the two-day early voting period. President Yoon Suk Yeol also voted by himself during his trip to Busan for an official event on the same day.Whether the first lady would show up to the polls has been a noteworthy issue, as she had been absent from public view since mid-December amid a series of scandals linked to her.A mask-wearing Kim is said to have been accompanied by bodyguards. The presidential office had not previously disclosed her participation in the voting process and no images of her at the polling station were released.

Criticism arose from the opposition bloc, with Cho Kuk, leader of the Rebuilding Korea Party, questioning Kim for voting in secrecy.”I have never seen a first lady not voting publicly in the history of Korea. What is shameful and what is there to fear?” Cho said.The lack of publicity around Kim exercising her electoral right is seen as an attempt to prevent the allegations surrounding her from negatively affecting the elections.Kim’s absence from public view in recent months has drawn attention, particularly since allegations emerged regarding a luxury bag that was gifted to her. She last made a public appearance on Dec. 15, when she returned from a state visit to the Netherlands with President Yoon.The first lady has been embroiled in controversy after a liberal YouTube-based news channel, Voice of Seoul, alleged in November that she received a Dior handbag worth about 3 million won ($2,250) from a Korean American pastor in September 2022. The pastor secretly filmed the exchange using a camera embedded in his watch.During the previous presidential election, President Yoon and Kim had voted separately, with Yoon casting his vote in Busan and Kim near her residence in Seoul. Kim’s limited public engagement during that period was attributed to 토토사이트 various controversies, including allegations of a falsified career background.

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