The People Power Party presidential nominee’s wife is under fire for possibly exaggerating her career history on top of allegations of her involvement in academic plagiarism and stock manipulation.
Kim Keon-hee, wife of presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol, partly acknowledged in an interview with news broadcaster YTN released Tuesday that she exaggerated her credentials in successfully applying for a professor position at Suwon Women’s University in 2007. She served in the teaching job for a year.
In the application form obtained by the media outlet, Kim wrote that she served as a director for the Korea Association of Game Industry for three years beginning in March 2002, even though the association was officially established in June 2004.
She said she does not remember the details of her appointment and is in the process of verifying additional details. But Kim attested she was close to key members of the association in the past and often invited them to speak for seminars and lectures.
Kim also acknowledged that she did not win the grand prize at the Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival in 2004 as claimed in the application, saying the falsely written accomplishment was her attempt to have her application “stand out” from those submitted by others.
"If that can be called a crime, that will be a crime," she said in the interview.
Yet Kim questioned whether her falsely written application is problematic, as she was not married to Yoon at the time and was not a public official undergoing the vetting process typical of those running for elected office.
"I don’t know how this could be problematic, as I didn’t even write down these accomplishments to advance to schools or anything," she said during the YTN interview.
"I wasn’t a public servant or a public official nor was I married to candidate Yoon Suk-yeol then, so I don’t understand why I have to undergo such verification (of my past moves)."
Kim argued her falsely written application would not have impacted the chances of other candidates in winning the professor seat, as recruitment was not open to the public and she had been recommended for the job by her close aide.
Yoon's election campaign committee acknowledged Kim's fault in falsely writing the application, saying she "must have been mistaken in writing how long she served in the director post" as she wrote it "years after serving without any pay or working full-time for the role."
But the team partly rebutted YTN’s report, saying her job experience and most of her award records are real.
People Power Party Chairman Lee Jun-seok also defended Kim, saying her past records should not be considered, as "the affairs took place well before the marriage of the candidate and his spouse."
"It would be excessive to blame the candidate for things that happened before his marriage," Lee said in a radio interview Tuesday.
Kim has largely stayed off the public radar since Yoon announced his bid for the presidency, a sharp contrast to the wife of Yoon’s rival Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, who has joined Lee in multiple campaign events in recent months.
Yoon has been criticized over suspicions surrounding his wife and her family, which many have assumed to be the reason for Kim to stay in the shadows while Yoon travels across the country to appeal to voters.
Kim was recently cleared of charges by the prosecution for alleged involvement in a stock manipulation case of Deutsch Motors due to an apparent lack of evidence or statements involving her. She is also alleged to have committed plagiarism in her past academic works.
Her mother was jailed for establishing a medical foundation and a geriatric hospital in 2013 without the necessary medical qualifications. She was sentenced to three years in prison in July.
The Democratic Party heavily denounced Kim’s comments, saying her behavior shows how Yoon is unqualified to serve as the president when his wife "fills her resume with lies to have herself stand out." Being the first lady would also require extensive checks of her past and records, it added.
"First ladies are provided with personnel and a budget as an official member of Cheong Wa Dae, so fact-checking on legal violations, not privacy, is necessary," said Park Chan-dae, a spokesperson for Lee's election campaign committee, in a statement Tuesday.
"And if Kim Keon-hee forged her life for decoration, that should be checked more precisely."
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org