Shaking hands for what?
JANG WON-SEOKThe author is an S-Team reporter at the JoongAng Ilbo. A handshake is a greeting in which two people extend one hand and grab the other’s hand. It was originally said to be a way to prove that one was not holding a weapon. Although there are slight differences, it is now the most commonly used greeting regardless of country or culture.
Handshakes produce lots of talk. Former Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo was once the talk of the town because of a handshake. During the 2007 inter-Korean summit, he shook hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il while keeping a straight posture without bowing his head. He earned the nickname, “stiff jangsoo.” Jangsoo in Korean means a general.
There is another well-known episode in which Park Geun-hye screamed when she shook hands with Lee Myung-bak during the 2006 presidential campaign. Supporters of both sides clashed over the incident, some wondering if Lee squeezed Park’s hand.
At a preliminary match before the Tokyo Olympics, national soccer team member Lee Dong-kyung slapped his opponent’s hand who asked for a handshake, after losing a game against New Zealand. He was criticized for being rude and had to apologize. During the Korea-U.S. summit in May 2021, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris was criticized for diplomatic discourtesy as she wiped her hand after shaking hands with President Moon Jae-in.
A few days ago, Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker Kim Eui-kyeom controversially claimed that Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon intentionally staged a handshake scene. Kim said that Minister Han chased DP Rep. Lee Jae-jung to the elevator and asked for a handshake with her to look like a sign for cooperation. Expressing his strong disagreement, Han said that it was a “wrong fact.” In fact, they shook hands inside an event venue — not in the elevator — and it was Lee who asked for the handshake.
But what I want to ruminate over is what Kim said before the story. “I heard from Rep. Lee that former DP floor leader Yoon Ho-joong came to her mind. She avoided a handshake with Han intentionally so that she didn’t get a picture taken.” He was referring to how Yoon — then head of the emergency committee of the DP — was criticized after a picture of him smiling with first lady Kim Keon-hee, the wife of President Yoon Suk-yeol, was released. Politicians are not comfortable with greeting and shaking hands as it could make their supporters uncomfortable.
To a politician, a handshake is like breathing. It is an effective way to win the hearts of voters. There is a reason for saying “One vote for each handshake.” The perception of handshaking has changed a little due to the spread of Covid-19, but the handshake battle in political circles looks bizarre.
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