Bill Gates criticised after handshake with South Korean president
Agence France-Presse in Seoul
Microsoft founder Bill Gates' casual style was criticised by the South Korean media yesterday after he shook hands with President Park Geun-Hye with his other hand in his pocket.
The picture of the meeting between Gates and Park on Monday was splashed on the front page of every national daily, some of which cropped out the offending pocketed hand while most chose to highlight it.
"Cultural difference, or an act of disrespect?" the JoongAng Ilbo wrote. "Disrespectful handshake? Casual handshake?" the Dong-A Ilbo asked.
South Korea is sensitive to any possible slight to its national pride and social networking sites were clogged with opinion.
"Even considering the cultural difference, there is an appropriate manner for certain occasions ... how can he put his hand in his pocket when meeting a leader of the state?" one tweeter asked. News portals posted montages of Gates shaking hands with other world leaders, showing he has previous form when it comes to informal greetings.
In a 2008 meeting with Park's predecessor Lee Myung-Bak, Gates also kept one hand pocketed, although a 2001 picture with then-president Kim Dae-Jung showed him adopting a more respectful two-handed shake.
"Gates is a casual man who's not bound by customs so he shakes hands in this manner even when meeting heads of international organisations or top political figures," Dong-A Ilbo quoted an unnamed friend of Gates in Seoul as saying.
Some Koreans suggested the media criticism was misplaced.
"Please, people ... don't think your Confucian mindset is a universal norm elsewhere in the world," one tweeter hit back.
Gates was in South Korea as chairman of the nuclear start-up TerraPower, promoting its project to develop a next-generation nuclear reactor.