Son of South Korea’s president under fire for receiving Covid aid

FILE PHOTO: A South Korean soldier wearing a protective suit walks past people who wait in a line to undergo a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test at a coronavirus testing site which is temporarily set up near a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, December 17, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

The artist-son of South Korean President Moon Jae-in is coming under criticism for accepting nearly $13,000 in coronavirus relief from the city of Seoul – funds that could have been allocated to financially distressed artists and organizations.

Moon Joon-yong, 39, was awarded the art grant in 2020 after exhibitions were reportedly canceled due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. Moon’s acceptance of the funds despite his position of relative privilege is drawing protest from opposition politicians, the JoongAng Ilbo reported.

South Korean lawmaker Kwak Sang-do said Tuesday that the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture gave Moon the grant, making the president’s son one of 46 applicants selected for the competition.

According to the JoongAng, Moon beat out organizations and individuals who submitted more detailed explanations about the need for subsidies. In a process where an application’s success hinges upon detailed statements, Moon, who creates video-based works, only included four lines of description, the report said.

Moon also may have received a relatively large grant in a program that sets an upper limit for relief at 15 million won, or about $13,500. The president’s son was selected over nonprofits, including an applicant seeking relief on behalf of disabled artists, according to JoongAng’s investigations.

Moon’s public funding controversy first made headlines in the South in December, when he held a solo exhibition at Keumsan Gallery in Seoul using the relief money. At the time, Moon defended his decision to take the funds.

“My scheduled exhibition was canceled due to Covid-19 and the gallery, curator, technicians, and other parties who signed contracts with me suffered losses,” Moon said, according to the Korea Times last year.

Korea Economic Daily reported Tuesday Moon ranked 34 out of 281 grant applicants at the Seoul Foundation, which gave him 85.33 points. Moon has said on Facebook his work would be “recognized,” or critically acclaimed, even if he were “not the president’s son,” reports said.

Moon Jae-in’s office has not issued a statement on the reports.


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