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Former First Lady’s $52,000 In-Flight Meal Tab Sparks Outrage

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The wife of President Moon Jae In, Kim Jung Sook (second from left), is seen touring the Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India on November 7, 2018 (local time). / Blue House Facebook

It has been reported that Kim Jung Sook, wife of former South Korean President Moon Jae In, and her entourage spent 62.92 million won (approximately $45,800) on in-flight meals alone on their private plane during their visit to the Taj Mahal in India, which sparked controversy over so-called “self-invitation.”

According to data provided by Rep. Bae Hyun Jin of the People Power Party on the 31st of last month, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism signed a contract worth 236.7 million won (about $172,000) with Korean Air in November 2018 for First Lady Kim Jung Sook and her entourage to visit India via private plane.

Upon reviewing the contract details related to the private jet, one of the largest expenditures was the cost of in-flight meals, which amounted to 62.92 million won. The cost of in-flight meals was as much as the fuel cost (final 65.31 million won) for round-trip flights to India and domestic flights within India.

Additional costs included wages for local support staff (30.13 million won), travel expenses for these staff members (29.95 million won), and ground handling fees (23.39 million won). However, these were all significantly lower than the in-flight meal costs. In contrast, spending on “in-flight reading materials” was only 480,000 won.

Mrs. Kim used the private jet from November 4 to 7, 2018, with 36 people on board. President Moon Jae-in did not accompany her, which sparked controversy over “solo diplomacy.” This issue gained attention again last month when Moon referred to Kim’s trip as the “first solo diplomacy (by a presidential spouse)” in his memoir published on the 19th. Some in the opposition party argue that a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate Mrs. Kim.

Rep. Bae said, “It was inappropriate to use the presidential jet for the First Lady’s solo visit to India, and it is surprising that over 60 million won was spent solely on in-flight meals alone. This amount far exceeds the average annual salary of ordinary citizens.”

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