South Korean Governor Apologizes for Playing Golf on Business Trip

D-bo, March 23, 2015, 7:45 a.m.

A South Korean governor apologized Monday for playing golf during his ongoing business trip to the United States, a sport considered to be a luxury here.  Gov. Hong Joon-pyo of South Gyeongsang Province, who left for the U.S. on Thursday, was found to have played golf with his wife and two Korean businessmen at the Oak Creek Golf Club in Irvine, California, on Friday afternoon (local time).

South Korea, a traditionally Confucian country that values frugality, has high ethical standards set for national leaders and public officials. Many high-ranking government officials, including former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan, were forced to step down in the past amid criticism for taking lavish overseas golf trips or engaging in other activities seen as unsuitable for their posts.

Hong made the apology in a text message to his chief of staff, Jeong Jang-su.  “I regret that this incident caused unnecessary misunderstandings,” Jeong quoted Hong as saying during a hurriedly arranged press conference at the provincial government building in Changwon, 398 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Jeong, however, claimed that the golf trip was a form of casual business as one of the businessmen, identified only by his last name Joo, used it as an opportunity to introduce one of his relatives who works in the distribution industry in New York. The relative advised the governor on ways to export South Gyeongsang’s agricultural goods to the U.S.’ East Coast.

Hong gave Joo US$400 in cash to pay for the round and received no administrative or financial support from the provincial government to take his wife along, according to Jeong.  Hong’s rival party, the main opposition party New Politics Alliance for Democracy, demanded the governor apologize to South Gyeongsang citizens and take moral responsibility for the issue.

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