Posts misrepresent Bolivian president's speech about relationship with South Korea

·3 min read

Multiple Korean-language social media posts have shared screenshots of a news report alongside a claim that Bolivian President Luis Arce had pledged his country would "provide any kind of help to South Korea". This is misleading. The original news clip shows Arce expressing his wish to collaborate on infrastructure projects, but does not show him saying the South American country would "provide any kind of help" to South Korea.

The claim was shared here by the South Korean tabloid soulsoul on May 17 alongside three screenshots of a news clip showing Arce delivering a speech.

"Last May 7 in the state of La Paz in South America's Bolivia, there was a ceremony to commemorate the third expansion of the 'El Alto Korea Hospital,'" the Korean-language post reads.

"Bolivian president Luis Arce made a rare appearance at the ceremony; Luis Arce thanked South Korea multiple times, and said [Bolivia] would help its benefactor South Korea at any time if South Korea needs it."

The Korean-language subtitles superimposed on the images translate as: "Thank you very much, our brother country South Korea. I promise [Bolivia] will gladly provide any help to South Korea."

Screenshot of the misleading claim shared on soulsoul. Captured May 31, 2022.

The post goes on to outline the health situation in Bolivia and South Korea's cultural and humanitarian ties with the South American country.

It was also shared on Facebook here, here, and here.

But the post is misleading -- the subtitles superimposed on the images are in fact a mistranslation of Arce's original comments.

Hospital expansion

Through a keyword search on Google, AFP found the corresponding news clip published on May 7, 2022 by the YouTube account for Bolivia TV, a government-run broadcaster.

The video's Spanish-language title translates as, "President Luis Arce oversees the handoff of the third block of the Korea Municipal Hospital in El Alto."

The video shows Arce delivering a speech to mark the inauguration of a new block at a South Korean-funded hospital in the Bolivian city of El Alto.

The South Korean government spent $9.7 million on the expansion of the hospital, according to the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the government agency that implements external aid programs.

Arce's full speech shows him expressing gratitude to the South Korean government and KOICA, but he does not pledge Bolivia would "provide any kind of help to South Korea."

"We again thank our brothers from the Republic of Korea," Arce says, at the video's eight-minute mark.

"We are sure that this won't be the first or last time we will be inaugurating this sort of project with our brothers from the Republic of Korea."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading posts (left) and the corresponding section of the news clip showing Arce's speech from Bolivia TV (right):

Screenshot comparison of the image containing the mistranslated caption from Arce's speech shared on social media (left) and the corresponding section of the news clip showing Arce's speech from Bolivia TV (right)

According to the international medical NGO Doctors Without Borders, Bolivia has one of the lowest health indicators in Latin America, with poor availability and quality of health care.

Later in the speech, Arce went on to say that health was a major policy focus for his government.

Arce's original speech was also covered in several South Korean news reports, including here, here, and here. Their coverage reflected the same quotes as shown by Bolivia TV -- not the erroneous quotes from soulsoul.

This article was updated on 2/6/22 to correct a typo in the penultimate paragraph.
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