October 05, 2020 12:34
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is being accused of flagrant hypocrisy after her husband jetted off to the U.S. to buy a yacht in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lee Yill-byung, a former professor at Yonsei University, flew to the U.S. on Saturday after his wife's government pleaded with Koreans to forgo their annual Chuseok trips to their ancestral hometown.
Kang herself was at the forefront of calls for Koreans to refrain from overseas travel and her ministry issues regular travel advisories warning of dire consequences if they are ignored.
The U.S. is one of the worst affected countries with over 200,000 coronavirus deaths compared to just over 400 in Korea.
Kang is on record as saying people's "private lives are not an absolute right" in defending the government's draconian restrictions.
The Chosun Ilbo has learned that Lee planned to visit Greece in June to buy a yacht. At the time, coronavirus infections were raging through Europe, and Kang's ministry urged Koreans to cancel their travel plans.
Yet Lee bought a plane ticket to Europe and wrote on his blog at the time, "Since I'm here, I think I'll tour some neighboring countries. If I don't find a yacht I like, there's a chance I'll travel to Denmark, France, Canada or the U.S."
In February, Lee visited Vietnam for a week with high school friends. After returning from Vietnam, Lee flew off to the French territory of Martinique in the Caribbean.
Confronted by a KBS reporter on his departure to the U.S. on Oct. 3, Lee said, "The coronavirus epidemic is not going to disappear any time soon. I can't sit at home all the time. I can't keep worrying about other people's lives as I live my own."
Kang told reporters on Sunday that she was "sorry." But when asked if she intended to ask her husband to return, she said, "He planned the trip for such a long time and postponed it several times, so it's difficult for me to tell him" to come home.
Both ruling and opposition party lawmakers criticized Kang. Minjoo Party leader Lee Nak-yon said Lee's actions were "inappropriate in the eyes of the public." Main opposition People Power Party spokesperson Kim Eun-hye said, "Small businesses are suffering from the epidemic, but the family member of a high-ranking government official is traveling and buying a yacht."
The ministry is also facing a barrage of criticism for its ambivalence about quarantine guidelines. People Power Party lawmaker Yun Hee-suk said, "The rules set by the government must be unilaterally applied to all citizens. If there are rules that don't have to be adhered to strictly, then the entire public should be informed, not just a handful of well-connected individuals."
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com