Bill Gates’ casual handshake offends South Korea

Bill Gates greets the South Korean president with one hand thrust into his trouser pocket
Bill Gates greets the South Korean president with one hand thrust into his trouser pocket

Billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates caused outrage in South Korea after he greeted the country’s president with one of his hands placed casually in his pocket.

Gates was in the nation’s capital, Seoul, for a meet-and-greet with President Park Geun-hye. His faux pas came when he shook hands with the president.

The polite greeting is a two-handed affair.

South Korea is a deeply hierarchical society where politeness and respect count for a lot — and many observers, and certainly South Korea’s newspapers, took offense at the apparently casual way Gates made his greeting.

“Cultural difference, or an act of disrespect?” one daily, JoongAng Ilbo wrote, while the Dong-A Ilbo asked: “Disrespectful handshake? Casual handshake?”

Others complained that even if no cultural slight was intended by Gates, sticking one hand in your pocket while meeting a head of state was an easy error to avoid.

Gates was in Seoul to promote the building of a next-generation nuclear power plant. He is chairman of the startup company behind the project.


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