South Korean and Philippine observers expressed outrage at Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte following an event in Seoul on Sunday, where the president appeared to force a married woman to kiss on the lips onstage.
Duterte was in Seoul for an official three-day visit to South Korea, his first to the country as president. During an event at the Grand Hilton Hotel in Seoul, described by the Philippine Star as a “gathering of members of the Filipino community,” Duterte asked two women to come to the stage, where he offered each of them a copy of a book, titled Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church, which is critical of the Catholic church. Duterte has claimed in the past that he was molested by a Catholic priest as a boy.
Duterte first asked one of the women if she was single, to which she replied, “No, sir.”
Duterte reportedly then asked, “You’re not separated from (your husband)? But you can tell him that this is just a joke?”
“This will cost you a kiss,” Duterte said in his native Filipino. “Are you ready for a kissing scene? You watch out.”
The clearly nervous woman did not resist the kiss, which was broadcast live.
The woman was reportedly identified as Bea Kim. She is married to a South Korean national, who was reportedly in attendance at the event, and has two children.
Kim then proceeded to kiss Duterte on the lips. She later told Radio Television Malacanang, “The kiss doesn’t mean anything except to entertain and make other Filipinos in the gathering happy. I assure you, for me and even the President, there was no malice in the kiss.”
The Philippine Star notes that Duterte has long identified as a “womanizer” and openly joked at a meeting with business community leaders in 2016 about using the sexual performance-enhancing drug Viagra. He also attracted criticism for lamenting during the 2016 Philippine presidential campaign that he did not have sex with a victim of gang rape while he was mayor of Davao City.
At a CNN Philippines town hall event in February 2016, Duterte reportedly claimed that he had three girlfriends and his common-law wife, Honeylet Avanceña.
Duterte was reportedly in South Korea for a series of meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to boost cooperation in the fields of transportation, economics, and trade, renewable energy, technology, and infrastructure.
“In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties next year, Moon and Duterte agreed to designate 2019 as ‘The Year of Mutual Exchanges Between Korea and the Philippines,’ during which both governments will cooperate to boost people-to-people exchanges,” according to the Korean JoongAng Ilbo.
The conservative newspaper Chosun Ilbo noted that South Korea’s government indicated Duterte’s visit is strictly business and sent the head of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration instead of a senior diplomat to welcome the Philippines president at the airport to send a clear message to that effect.
According to the publication, the Philippines bought 12 Korean FA-50 fighter jets in 2014, and Duterte indicated in 2017 that he intends to purchase 12 more; a point that will likely be raised during the meetings.