China’s first lady has compared the looks of her husband – President Xi Jinping in his younger years to that of popular South Korean actor Kim Soo-hyun.
First lady Peng Liyuan, who accompanied her husband on his first visit to South Korea as China’s leader, made the comment on Thursday afternoon during a discussion about the popular TV drama My Love from the Star.
She was touring the Changdeokgung Palace Complex, the second royal villa built in 1405. Peng said that when she and her daughter were looking at photos of a much younger Xi, they agreed he resembled the show’s leading man, Do Minjoon, played by Kim.
The conversation started when Peng received two bottle openers – printed with the Korean characters for “star” and “flower” – as gifts from Cho Yoon-sun, secretary of political affairs for President Park Geun-hye, according to the Korean Yonhap News Agency.
In the show, Kim, now in his mid-20s, plays a 400-year-old alien called Do Minjoon who finds his true love on earth. My Love from the Star started airing in South Korea last year and reached transnational fame.
Watch: My Love from the Star Trailer
It became a hit in China this year, with many Chinese fans streaming it online. This TV drama later became a phenomenon, topping the average audience share in several Asian countries and winning multiple awards.
According to AGB Nielsen’s rating, the show’s average audience share in South Korea reached 24.02 per cent – a sizeable chunk considering the fierce competition for ratings.
It even has fans in high places: state media reported that Wang Qishan – chief of the central anti-graft agency, admitted that he watched the show, saying that China could learn from South Korea’s success in cultural exports.
But many mainland Chinese netizens bristled at the comparison with Kim, saying the young Xi looked “more handsome”.
“No matter how handsome Do is, Winnie the Pooh’s Tigger is always cuter,” a Weibo user said, referring to a cartoon character that has been thought to resemble Xi.
Others saw humour in it. “So this indicates when Do Minjoon gets old, he will look like Xi?” wrote a commentator from Beijing.
Peng will focus on cultural exchange during her visit, accordnig to Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Also at the tour of Changdeokgung Place Complex yesterday, Peng mentioned another Korean TV drama. Peng said the palace experience was like walking into the set of Dae Jang Geum, another highly popular Korean TV show that aired in 2003.
The show was about the first female royal physician of the Joseon dynasty. Weibo photos also showed Peng shopping in Seoul’s Dongdaemun, an all-night wholesale district.
It was reported that the first lady bought a big cake for her husband. Wearing a white blouse with stiff collar and black trousers, Peng looked happy and relaxed in the photos.