Former South Korean parliament speaker becomes target of misleading posts after Biden visit

·3 min read

A photo has been shared repeatedly in Korean-language social media posts claiming it shows Park Byeong-seug, the former speaker of the South Korean parliament, "refusing to salute" the South Korean flag while the country's national anthem played during US President Joe Biden's visit to Seoul. The image shows Park with his hands by his side, while Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol can be seen putting their right hands to their hearts. This is misleading; footage of the same event shows Park holding his hand on his heart during his country's national anthem.

"What is the true identity of this guy who refuses to salute the flag?" reads this Korean-language claim shared on Facebook on May 23, 2022.

The photo shows Yoon (left) and Biden (centre) holding up their right hands to their chests, while Park (right) has his arms by his side. Korean-language text superimposed on the photo says, "Who is this guy???"

Bringing one's right hand to the chest is referred to as an act of saluting in South Korea, and it is typically done facing the direction of the flag when the national anthem is played at official events.

Screenshot of the misleading claim shared on Facebook, captured May 26, 2022.

Park is a six-term lawmaker who served as speaker of South Korea's National Assembly from 2020 until the end of his term on May 29, 2022.

Biden visited South Korea from May 20 to 22, 2022, on the first leg of his official tour of Asia.

Biden and Yoon, as well as several other high-ranking South Korean and US dignitaries like Park, attended a state dinner held at the National Museum of Korea.

The photo with the superimposed text was shared alongside similar claims from Facebook users here, here, here, and here.

The claim, however, is misleading.

A keyword search on Google found that the original photo was the third image posted here on Biden's official Instagram account on May 23.






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A post shared by President Joe Biden (@potus)

But according to a clip published on South Korean daily JoonAng Ilbo's YouTube channel, the photo was snapped during the state dinner when the US national anthem was playing -- not while the South Korean national anthem was being played.

The video on Joonang Ilbo's Youtube channel shows that Park performed the salute when the South Korean national anthem was played after the US anthem, while Biden did not.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo alongside the misleading claim on social media (left) and Park performing the salute as shown in the JoongAng Ilbo news clip (right):

Screenshot comparison of the photo alongside the misleading claim on social media (left) and Park performing the salute as shown in the JoongAng Ilbo news clip (right)

It is considered "common diplomatic practice" in South Korea to stand with respect, without saluting other countries' flags, during the national anthems of visiting dignitaries.

Because of President Yoon's unconventional action of saluting during the US national anthem, the same photo from Biden's Instagram also sparked controversy within South Korea as he had placed his right hand to his heart during both songs.

Various local news reports on the incident, including here and here.

A spokesperson for South Korea's presidential office told AFP: "As a sign of respect, placing one's hand over the heart during the national anthem of another country is neither impolite nor disrespectful."

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