Ex-South Korean First Lady files defamation against ruling party lawmaker over India trip row

Former South Korean First Lady Kim Jung-sook, wife of ex-President Moon Jae-in, has taken legal action against ruling party lawmaker Rep Bae Hyun-jin, accusing him of spreading false information and defamation regarding her solo trip to India in 2018, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The defamation suit, filed with the police, marks a significant development in a contentious issue that has sparked political tensions in South Korea.

According to a statement released by Rep Yoon Kun-young of the main opposition Democratic Party, Kim filed the suit against Rep Bae, a member of the ruling People Power Party (PPP), citing his claims that her trip incurred undue expenses to the tune of 230 million won (approximately USD166,400). Of this amount, Bae alleged that over 62 million won was spent solely on in-flight meals.

The controversy surrounding Kim's trip escalated further as it emerged that she undertook the journey without President Moon, marking the first time in 16 years that a South Korean first lady had engaged in foreign diplomacy without accompanying the president, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Former Culture Minister Do Jong-hwan recently disclosed a copy of the invitation extended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to President Moon, emphasising the official nature of Kim's visit.

In response to mounting pressure, members of the PPP have called for a special counsel investigation into the expenditures related to Kim's trip.

This move has been met with allegations from opposition quarters that such calls are aimed at diverting attention from separate allegations involving the current first lady, Kim Keon Hee, who has been implicated in an unrelated controversy over luxury gifts.

Prosecutors have initiated an investigation following a complaint lodged by Seoul city councilor Lee Jong-bae, also affiliated with the PPP, accusing Kim Jung-sook of misusing public funds amounting to 400 million won during her visit to the Taj Mahal in India. The investigation is set to include scrutiny of additional allegations, including the acceptance of luxury goods and services from government resources.

In response to the unfolding investigation, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office intends to summon Lee Jong-bae as a complainant on Wednesday. Prosecutors are poised to examine the full spectrum of allegations surrounding Kim's conduct during and after the India trip, including the use of a presidential aircraft for official travel purposes.

Former President Moon Jae-in recently defended Kim's trip as a pivotal moment in South Korea's diplomatic relations, citing the invitation from the Indian government as validation of her role in fostering international ties. However, critics argue that the expenditures associated with the trip warrant thorough investigation to ensure transparency and accountability, Yonhap News Agency reported.


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