Kim Moo-sung, a 65 year-old Korean politician, arrived at Seoul’s Gimpo Airport on May 23 after returning from a trip to Japan. As he entered the arrivals hall, he smoothly and nonchalantly pushed his suitcase to a male assistant who was awaiting his return.
The video, which has gone viral in Korea, draws attention to an ongoing discussion in the country about the elevated status of middle-aged men and their abuse of that power.
“This shows… the way he treats his subordinates! How does he act in private if he even acts like this in an airport?… This is the bare face of the Korean elite!” said one comment (link in Korean) on Naver, Korea’s biggest web portal.
Kim’s action has been dubbed the “no-look pass” in Korea, a reference to the basketball move. Others joked that he might be good at curling.
The misdeeds of Korea’s ajeossi, or the more derogatory term gaejeossi—a portmanteau of the word for “middle-aged man” with the word for “dog”—are well chronicled. The term for the abuse of power by someone against a person in a weaker position is known as gapjil.
According to a local media report (link in Korean), citing statistics by the National Police Agency, in the month of September last year 1,289 cases of gapjil were recorded, with 90% of those incidents carried out by men. Men in their 40s and 50s made up more than half the cases. The same report detailed a physical attack by a 53 year-old man on a security guard—which included stubbing a cigarette on his face—in a car park in an apartment complex in Gwangju, after the guard asked the man to lower his voice.
It also isn’t the first time that Kim has found himself in the crosshairs for inappropriate behavior. In 2015, he made a comment about a Nigerian student’s skin color and later apologized. Kim, who has been a lawmaker in Korea’s National Assembly since 1996, is a member of the conservative Baerun Party.
Kim told media (link in Korean) today (May 24) in response to questions about the incident: “Why should I explain that? Don’t you have any other things to do?” and, “I am not interested and I have no intention of explaining. Just do your work.”
Hong Joon-pyo, a conservative politician who ran for president, drew attention to the prevalent sexism in Korea when during the recent presidential campaign he said that women doing the dishes is something that is “decided by the heavens.”
With newly elected president Moon Jae-in riding a huge wave of popularity in Korea—many are lauding his “common touch“—some also compared Kim’s actions to that of Moon’s. For example, Korean internet users pointed out that during an event (link in Korean) at the presidential Blue House earlier this month, as Moon was about to take his seat, an employee of the Blue House came over to help Moon remove his jacket. Moon said to the staff member, “I will take off my own jacket” and put the jacket on the chair by himself.
Soo Kyung Jung contributed reporting.