South Korea presidential hopeful becomes target of doctored report on 'gender equality' pledge

·3 min read

As South Korea geared up for a presidential election in March 2022, a screenshot of a purported news report featuring the main opposition candidate Yoon Suk-yeol circulated in Facebook posts claiming it showed him backtracking on his pledge to scrap the government's gender equality ministry. Yoon, a former prosecutor-general, has maintained a narrow lead over ruling party candidate Lee Jae-myung in recent opinion polls. However, the image has been doctored; the original report was about Yoon reiterating his plans to abolish the gender equality ministry.

The image was shared on January 10, 2022 in a Facebook group with more than 75,000 members.

It appears to show a news report featuring Yoon Suk-yeol, presidential candidate for South Korea's conservative opposition People Power Party.

Yoon and ruling party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung have been in a tight race, with one recent opinion poll putting Yoon ahead of Lee.

The Korean-language news ticker reads: "I just posted it [a pledge to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family] on social media to see the public's reaction. I can change my mind anytime. I hope that women did not feel uncomfortable with it."

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on January 11, 2022. ( AFP)

Text in the top-left corner reads: "Yoon causes confusion over the abolition of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family by changing his stance".

Yoon pledged on his official Facebook page on January 8 that he would "establish a new ministry" to replace the government's gender equality ministry -- which he claimed was actually exacerbating gender inequality.

His pledge came one day after he announced on Facebook he would "abolish" the gender equality ministry if elected.

Comments on the posts show some Facebook users were misled by the post.

One user wrote: "Can a presidential candidate retract their promises that easily?"

Another user said: "Is a campaign promise a joke to him? How come he changes it so easily?"

The same image circulated on Facebook here and here.

However, the image has been digitally altered.

Keyword searches found the screenshot in a news report posted on the YouTube page of South Korean broadcaster MBC on January 8, 2022.

The image from the misleading posts matches the image seen at the clip's one-minute 11-second mark.

The on-screen caption accurately reflects Yoon's comments at this point in the video.

He says: "My current stance is to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and I will give it more thought."

The text in the top left-hand corner reads: "Confusion over the abolition of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family".

It does not say that Yoon "changed his stance", as was stated in the misleading posts.

Below is a screenshot comparison between the doctored image (left) and the original clip (right):

AFP reviewed the interview and found Yoon did not make the purported comment shown in the misleading posts.

Lee Jun-seok, leader of Yoon's People Power Party, said on Facebook on January 10, 2022 that the image shared in the misleading posts had been doctored to insert the false quote.

His post reads in part: "The party has decided to file a criminal charge for violating the Public Official Election Act against a person who attempted to form a distorted image by manipulating and editing our candidate's remarks on an online community."

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