China / World

S.Koreans cheered up by their friendly first lady

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-06-17 07:18

SEOUL - She shops for fish for her family and is not afraid to go out in public in her slippers without a fancy hairdo, but one thing sets "Happy Mrs Jung-sook" apart from other South Korean housewives.

She is the first lady of South Korea, the wife of popular new liberal President Moon Jae-in.

Kim Jung-sook's upbeat personality and unprecedented openness have earned her the nickname. In a month since Moon's election win, she has set herself apart from former first ladies who lived quietly in their husbands' shadows.

Kim says she wants to fill any gaps Moon might miss as he tries to communicate with a South Korean public wary of established politicians after a corruption scandal ousted his predecessor, Park Geun-hye.

"I would like to be a neighborly first lady who's down to earth and friendly," Kim said.

So it was no surprise that Kim, 62, was seen queuing to buy fish during campaigning for the snap May election. She also makes honey-preserved ginseng for politicians as gifts.

Political observers see her as a breath of fresh air after Park's ouster in a corruption scandal that rocked South Korea's business and political elite.

"In the past, first ladies were seen sticking to formalities, they were serious and never spoke up," said Ha Jae-keun, a culture critic for South Korean media.

"Kim, in contrast, seems approachable and feels fresh."

Moon's approval rating hit a record 83 percent in the latest poll by Gallup Korea released on Friday. By contrast, the unmarried Park's approval rating had fallen to 44 percent just four weeks after she took office.

Park was famous for never going out in public without her trademark highly coifed hairdo and makeup, her unapproachable demeanor later earning her the nickname of "ice princess".

"It seems that the public that was wounded by Park's coldness is being comforted by Kim," Ha said.

Kim and Moon have been married since 1981. While the first couple might argue just like any other, Kim sees her role as helping to keep her husband grounded during his single five-year term.

"Our new house is large and nice but I'm trying to live as we lived before because I know we'll go back to staying in a small house in five years," Kim said.


 S.Koreans cheered up by their friendly first lady

South Korean first lady Kim Jung-sook and her husband, President Moon Jae-in, arrive at the Blue House after his inauguration ceremony in Seoul on May 10.Baek Seungryul / Yonhap Via Ap

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