I aim to be just myself, as I have always been: Kim Jung Sook, South Korea's new first lady

File photo of Moon Jae In and his wife Kim Jung Sook when they were university students.
File photo of Moon Jae In and his wife Kim Jung Sook when they were university students. PHOTO: EPA
South Korea President Moon Jae In and his wife Kim Jung Sook arriving at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, on May 10, 2017.
South Korea President Moon Jae In and his wife Kim Jung Sook arriving at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, on May 10, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL - Theirs is a love story that has captured the hearts of South Koreans.

South Korea's new First Lady Kim Jung Sook first met her husband-to-be at Kyunghee University in Seoul in the 1970s.

Moon Jae In, who won Tuesday's election with a landslide victory, was studying law while she majored in music.

They were introduced by their senior who described Moon as a man resembling French actor Alain Delon, according to Yonhap news agency.

Their relationship developed after Kim took care of Moon when he was knocked out by tear gas during a protest against the authoritarian rule by then-President Park Chung Hee, father of the ousted President Park Geun Hye.

They became college sweethearts and she has been his closest supporter, companion and adviser through his turbulent career as a student activist, human rights lawyer, presidential aide and opposition politician. 

Moon said in a recent interview that his wife does not shy away from delivering  "bitter advice" to him.

"She proposes some wine when she thinks I look exhausted. Sometimes, she delivers vivid opinions from the people to me and pours out bitter advice," he said.

As a law student in the 1970s, he was jailed twice for leading pro-democracy protests against the governments.

He was also forcibly enlisted in the elite special forces after his release from jail.


File photo of Moon Jae In and Kim Jung Sook getting married in March 1981. PHOTO: REUTERS

He sat for the bar exam while serving time in prison the second time, for protesting against the Chun Doo Hwan regime. Chun had seized power in a coup after the assassination of Park Chung Hee in 1979.

Moon passed the bar exam in 1980 but despite his good grades, he failed the vetting process to become a judge because of his student activist past.


File photo of Moon Jae In and his wife Kim Jung Sook when they were university students. PHOTO: REUTERS  

During this year's short but intense 60-day presidential campaign, Madam Kim was widely credited with helping to boost support for her husband in the southwest Jeolla provinces.

There, she earned the nickname "jolly lady" for her likable and easy-to-talk-to personality. Mr Moon's aides say her personality helped softened the the president's relatively brusque character.

When asked about her role as South Korea's first lady, the 62-year-old said: "I aim to be just myself, as I have always been. A first lady who can communicate with people, like anybody else, in what I call Kim Jung Sook-style."


Moon Jae In and his wife Kim Jung Sook resting on a mountain behind his private house in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: REUTERS

"My husband once said he aims to be a president who can head to Gwanghwamun on his way home from work to have some soju with the people. Like him, I would like to go shopping for groceries at Namdaemun Market (like everybody else)," she told Korea Herald late on Tuesday.

The couple has two children.