Posted : 2013-04-23 17:09
Updated : 2013-04-23 17:09

Gates' handshake causes red faces

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, right, keeping his hands in his pockets, is escorted by Cho Won-dong, left, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs during a courtesy call on President Park Geun-hye at Cheong Wa Dae, Monday. / Yonhap

By Jun Ji-hye

Microsoft founder Bill Gates did all the right things during his recent visit to Korea, except for shaking hands with President Park Geun-hye while keeping his other hand in his pocket.

Of course, not everybody is criticizing Gates, with some attributing the casual greeting to cultural differences.

"The President represents the nation. It is absurd that Gates ignored Korean culture and manner. There is no reason why he wouldn't know this," said a netizen identified by "kjk2****."

Another netizen, "whdg****" said, "As an old saying goes, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do,' he should have followed what people do in Korea."

On the other hand, some netizens claim it is not a serious problem when taking cultural differences into account.

"It is inappropriate to force Western people to follow Confucianism culture," said an online commentator with ID "sana****," while ID "nell****" said "Gates is not a Korean. People should not judge him by our cultural standards."

Others write opinions that Gates's behavior is just a habit. He previously shook hands with his left hand in his pocket when he met former President Lee Myung-bak at Cheong Wa Dae five years ago and French President Francois Hollande last year.

The same scene occurred when he met Bill Clinton and Nicolas Sarkozy, former U.S. and French presidents, respectively.

Some netizens took issue with a photo of Gates shaking hands with late liberal President Kim Dae-jung with both hands, saying Gates behaved respectfully to Kim.

However, both Korean and American experts say it is not a matter of great importance.

"A handshake with one hand would not be a big deal in the U.S., so I would not read too much into the manner with which Gates shook the president's hand," said Robert Kelly, associate professor at Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University.

"He is not a Korean, so it is rather unfair to judge him by standards he likely did not know. More important though is, in the U.S., excessive deference to those ‘above' you is considered arrogant elitism," he said.

Korean expert, Bae Jong-chan, a director of the social research and consulting department at Research and Research, agreed in part with Kelly.

"It is improper to stretch the meaning of Gates' handshake manner because it is as if people are judging the whole by a small part. What is more important is what he said and how he behaved during the meeting with President Park, which did not cause any problems," he said.

Bae pointed out that Gates might have shaken hands with Kim using two hands because there was a large age gap between him and Kim, so "it should not be politically interpreted."

He added, however, "It is true that the manner of his handshake could be regarded as a sign of discourtesy by Korean cultural standards. It would have been much nicer if a world figure such as Gates observed an accepted standard of good manners in a foreign land."

관련 한글 기사

빌게이츠, 대통령에 '주머니 악수' 결례 혹은 습관?

방한 중인 마이크로소프트(MS) 공동창업자 빌 게이츠 미국 테라파워 회장이 22일 박근혜 대통령을 접견한 자리에서 주머니에 한 손을 찔러 넣고 악수를 한 장면이 네티즌들 사이에 논란이 됐다.

게이츠 회장은 이날 오후 청와대에서 박 대통령이 접견장에 들어서며 손을 내밀자 왼손을 바지 주머니에 넣은 채 한 손으로 악수를 했고, 이 장면이 취재진의 카메라에 잡혔다.

이 사진이 인터넷 포털 등에 소개되자 네티즌들 사이에서는 '국가원수를 만나는 자리에서 결례가 아니냐'라는 의견과 '미국에서는 전혀 이상하지 않은 행동'이라는 반론도 나왔다.

게이츠 회장은 5년전 청와대에서 이명박 당시 대통령을 만나면서도 거의 비슷한 모습으로 악수하는 장면이 카메라에 잡힌 적이 있다.

미국식 인사법이라는 '문화적 차이'를 굳이 '무례'나 '결례'로 확대해석할 필요는 없다는 게 정치권의 시각이기도 하다.

한편 박 대통령은 이날 빌 게이츠 회장을 만나 원자력기술 분야에서의 협력 가능성, 창조경제와 정부의 역할, 빈곤퇴치를 위한 해외원조 등에 대해 의견을 교환했다.

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