Presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party came under fire earlier this week after a picture of him putting his feet on a train seat went viral.
The photo, uploaded on social media by his aide Lee Sang-il, showed Yoon’s legs all stretched out with his feet on the seat opposite of him with his shoes on. The train was chartered by his party as part of his presidential campaign.
The social media post has been deleted following criticism.
His show of poor etiquette saw critics slam him as a “kkondae,” a term that refers to a condescending older person in Korean.
“He’s a kkondae without basic manners,” one Naver comment read.
Conservatives have rushed to Yoon’s defense. Na Kyung-won, a former floor leader of the conservative opposition, said in a radio interview on Wednesday that she understands Yoon has “foot problems.”
His opponents have slammed his behavior.
“It is no longer surprising to see the poor manners and lack of common sense from Yoon, who has been relying on special privilege and authority throughout his whole life,” said Rep. Jo Seung-lae, the chief spokesperson of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea‘s election committee.
Earlier this month, candidate Sim Sang-jung of the minor progressive Justice Party also criticized Yoon for having a “kkondae-like view on work ethics” during a TV debate.
Her criticism is based on a remark Yoon made last year suggesting workers should be able to work up to 120 hours a week, then rest while on a flexible schedule.
It is not the first time Yoon’s manners, or lack thereof, have made headlines.
Last year, Yoon came under fire after being pictured ”manspreading“ on multiple occasions. Manspreading is defined as “the act or practice by a man of sitting with the legs spread wide apart (as in a public seating area) in a way that intrudes on the space of others,“ according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
An unflattering picture of Yoon at a press conference sitting with his legs spread wide apart under a desk as short socks flashed his ankles was met with mockery on the internet, even among male dominant online communities where he usually enjoys strong support.
In an interview with Busan Ilbo in 2021, Yoon said it is hard for people with thick thighs to keep their legs closed.
He also acknowledged criticisms from young people for his poor public transport manners, but added he keeps his legs closed while on the subway.
Linking his manspreading habit to the recent controversy surrounding his conduct on a train, Rep. Lee So-young of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea has also criticized Yoon on social media
“Now that you cannot ‘manspread,’ you are stretching out your legs?” the lawmaker said in a Facebook post on Sunday.
Though these instances of poor manners may seem innocuous on first glance, the act of sitting with one’s legs wide apart, or putting one’s feet on a seat on public transportation are linked with being “condescending” or even authoritarian.
A 2020 survey by online job portal Saramin revealed nearly seven in 10 workers know a young kkondae at their workplace – people who are condescending and authoritarian, often offering unsolicited advice and overstepping boundaries.
With the election less than three weeks away, coming across as a kkondae could be damaging to presidential candidates as they try to appeal to young voters.
Despite the controversy, one survey on Thursday showed Yoon leading his rival Lee Jae-myung from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea by 9 percent. He gained 5 percentage points from the previous week, according to the poll conducted with 1,012 adults from Monday to Wednesday by Embrain Public, Kstat Research, Korea Research and Hankook Research.
Yoon is also ahead of Lee among voters in their 20s and 30s, the survey showed.
More information regarding the survey results are available at the National Election Survey Deliberation Commission homepage.
By Yim Hyun-su (firstname.lastname@example.org