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How a Dior bag shook South Korean politics

Seoul, South Korea CNN —

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is months out from a crucial election seen as a barometer of his mid-term popularity, but surveys show he has a big problem – the latest scandal surrounding his wife.

Kim Keon Hee, 51, is not a typical first lady in patriarchal South Korea. She had already established a career in organizing art exhibitions when she married Yoon, then a prosecutor, 12 years ago. The couple have no children but own a brood of cats and dogs whose photos feature prominently in Yoon’s presidential office.

Unlike her predecessors, who mostly kept a low profile in the shadow of their husbands, Kim has her own fan club and appears comfortable in the spotlight – as an avid promoter of Korean culture, a vocal critic of the dog meat trade and a glamorous fashionista on overseas trips with Yoon, often donning outfits from domestic brands.

But it was reportedly her love of designer handbags that has thrust the first lady into the center of a raging political storm, in which she was accused of accepting a $2,200 Christian Dior bag as a gift.

Kim is yet to address the unfolding drama, despite growing calls for an explanation and an investigation, though her husband has said the allegations against her are a “political stunt.” CNN has reached out to the presidential office for comment.

The first lady is no stranger to controversy – over the past few years, she has apologized for resume-padding and has faced allegations from academic plagiarism to stock manipulation.

Kim has not publicly commented on the two latter accusations. The presidential office has repeatedly denied that she was involved in stock manipulation.

The latest storm swirling around Kim has refused to blow over.