Husband of South Korean Foreign Minister Breaks Her Rules—to Fly to America to Buy a Yacht

Tom Sykes
·3 min read
Markus Schreiber
Markus Schreiber

It is one thing to flout a coronavirus travel ban to fly overseas for the purposes of buying a yacht.

It’s altogether another matter to do so when your wife is the one who made the rules.

South Korea’s foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, came under pressure to resign Monday after her husband defied her ministry’s advice against all but essential travel overseas and flew to the United States on Saturday to buy himself a new boat.

Lee Yill-Byung, a university professor, has now become the focus of considerable outrage in Korea after he was confronted by a television crew as he prepared to fly to the U.S. on Saturday, saying, “The coronavirus epidemic is not going to disappear any time soon. I can’t sit at home all the time. I can’t keep worrying about other people’s lives as I live my own.”

His mission, as described on his now-deleted blog, was to buy himself a small yacht and enjoy a “cruising life” and be able to say that he “lived in a beautiful place” for several years before he dies.

The opposition People Power Party was quick to condemn Lee’s actions, with a party official telling the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, “Small businesses are suffering from the epidemic, but a family member of a high-ranking government official is traveling and buying a yacht.”

The paper accused Kang of “flagrant hypocrisy” as her ministry, just days before, had ordered Koreans to stay home for this year’s Chuseok holiday, saying that people’s “private lives are not an absolute right.”

Broadcaster KBS initially broke the news Saturday evening of Lee’s travel, screening astonishing footage of reporters at Incheon International Airport confronting a defiant Lee, who told the reporters that he had “packed many masks.”

When asked if he was concerned about being the husband of a public figure and prominent lawmaker, Lee reportedly replied, “It could be a burden if I am doing something bad, but I am doing what I believe is right, and I am living my own life, so I don’t have to compromise on this because of what others think.”

Lee was asked if Kang had spoken to him about the trip, and he replied, “We are both adults, so she didn’t particularly tell me not to go.”

The following day, Kang told reporters that she was “sorry” about her husband’s decision to travel overseas, adding, “He has planned the trip for such a long time and postponed it several times, so it’s difficult for me to tell him not to go.”

The Korea JoongAng Daily said that sailing the world on a yacht was at the top of a bucket list on Lee’s now-scrubbed blog, and that he has been planning the purchase for nearly a year.

Lee reportedly was traveling to New York to purchase a 51-foot 1990 Kanter 51-foot Mistress V yacht, estimated to cost around $120,000.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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