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Photo shows South Korean opposition leader bowing before 2022 election, not ahead of 2024 poll

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A photo showing politicians from South Korea’s Democratic Party prostrating before a press conference in 2022 has resurfaced in social media posts that falsely claim it was taken shortly before the 2024 legislative polls. The posts said this showed “desperation” from Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung and predicted a landslide victory for President Yoon Suk Yeol‘s People Power Party. The news reports from 2022 said Lee and his colleagues were pictured ahead of that year’s presidential election.

“They’re at it again,” reads the Korean-language caption of an image shared here in a Facebook group with more than 50,000 members on March 18, 2024.

The image shows several people kneeling on the floor and bowing their heads down. A banner in the background indicates the central figure in the image is Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung.

The text above the image reads, “Out of desperation these things are again resorting to kowtowing. Looking at their performance I can sense a landslide victory for the People Power Party.”

As the photo circulated online, President Yoon Suk Yeol’s People Power Party was hoping to seize control of the legislature from the Democratic Party in parliamentary races set for April 10 (archived link).

<span>Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on March 19, 2024</span>

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on March 19, 2024

A similar false claim was also shared in other Facebook groups with thousands of members.

Similar displays of contrition are common for South Korean politicians who have been embroiled in scandals or face sinking approval ratings going into elections — as seen in reports ranging back several years, including here, here and here (archived links here, here and here).

This image shows Democratic Party politicians bowing before the 2022 presidential election, not ahead of parliamentary polls in 2024.

Previous presidential election

A reverse image search on Google found a corresponding photo published by Yonhap News on January 24, 2022, less than two months before the country’s last presidential election (archived link).

According to the Korean-language caption, it shows Lee — a former governor of Gyeonggi province — prostrating ahead of a press conference with his colleagues.

It reads: “Democratic Party candidate Lee Jae-myung, ahead of a press conference to announce his policy promises for Gyeonggi province at Yongin’s Poeun Art Hall on the morning of the 24th, makes a great bow alongside his party’s legislators from Gyeonggi.”

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image used in the false posts (left) and the photo published by Yonhap in January 2022 (right):

<span>Screenshot comparison of the image used in the false posts (left) and the photo published by Yonhap in January 2022 (right)</span>

Screenshot comparison of the image used in the false posts (left) and the photo published by Yonhap in January 2022 (right)

Public broadcaster KBS published footage from the press conference on the same date; Lee and his party’s lawmakers can be seen prostrating at the video’s six-minute and 23-second mark (archived link).

According to local media reports of the event which carried the same photo, Lee apologised for shortcomings in his party’s governance throughout the outgoing Moon Jae-in administration (archived link here).

At the time, Lee was trailing in opinion polls to Yoon, who went on to win the election by a razor-thin margin in March of that year.

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