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DPK lawmaker continues 'poverty porn' claim against first lady, sends people to Cambodia

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First lady Kim Keon-hee holds a Cambodian child suffering a congenital heart disease during her visit to the boy's home in Phnom Penh, Nov. 12, in this photo provided by the presidential office. Yonhap
First lady Kim Keon-hee holds a Cambodian child suffering a congenital heart disease during her visit to the boy's home in Phnom Penh, Nov. 12, in this photo provided by the presidential office. Yonhap

By Kwon Mee-yoo

An opposition lawmaker, who sparked a debate over "poverty porn" allegations about first lady Kim Keon-hee's visit to a sick Cambodian child, said he sent someone to Cambodia to verify the suspicions around Kim's photo with the child.

Rep. Jang Kyung-tae, a first-term lawmaker of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), said during an SBS radio show, Friday, that he made a request for the address of the boy's house which was delivered to, presumably, the Korean embassy in Phnom Penh, but did not get an answer.

"(One of us) went to Cambodia to check the boy's condition. However, it was not discussed by the party, just my personal decision," Jang said.

Jang was the first to raise the criticism against the first lady, claiming that she used the poverty-stricken boy's situation to boost her image. He accused the first lady of a "diplomatic discourtesy" as she met the child instead of taking part in an official program for spouses of heads of state visiting Phnom Penh to attend the ASEAN summit.

Rep. Jang Kyung-tae of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea speaks during a Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul, Nov. 16. Rep. Jang claims that the first lady's photos from a visit to a sick child in Cambodia were staged. Yonhap
Rep. Jang Kyung-tae of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea speaks during a Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul, Nov. 16. Rep. Jang claims that the first lady's photos from a visit to a sick child in Cambodia were staged. Yonhap

When asked why he was looking for the Cambodian boy, Jang said, "Relief work is done not only by the first lady, but by all citizens... I could send some relief supplies to the boy, but the embassy won't share the address."

However, he also admitted that he wants to "know the truth," sticking to his claim that the first lady staged the photoshoot using professional lighting equipment.

As Jang continues to accuse first lady Kim, the presidential office said Tuesday that it will sue the lawmaker on charges of spreading false claims.

Meanwhile, Ambassador of Cambodia to Korea Chring Botum Rangsay said she thinks the issue is "over-politicized" in Korea and she is grateful that first lady Kim took the time for charity work.

"From my perspective only, I can feel that the first lady, since this is her visit, really wanted to explore Cambodia and learn about the culture. It seems like the visit to the children's hospital is something meaningful to her personal interests, very dear to her heart. We're very appreciative of her lending support to the disabled children. We value her kindness and gesture," Ambassador Chring said during an interview with The Korea Times, Nov. 20.


Kwon Mee-yoo meeyoo@koreatimes.co.kr


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