Note to westerners: Do not let your left hand remain in your pocket while shaking the hand of a dignitary in South Korea.
This is a lesson Microsoft founder Bill Gates is learning after a photo of his handshake with South Korean president Park Geun-hey was splashed on papers across the country Tuesday. Gates had one hand in his suit pocket during the handshake.
Some of the photo captions read: “Cultural difference, or an act of disrespect?” and “Disrespectful handshake? Casual handshake?” reports AFP.
Other newspapers cropped the photo to remove the offending pocketed hand entirely.
Here’s a blogger at the gamer site Kotaku, with a little more insight about why Gates’ left hand is causing such a stir: “In South Korea, putting your hands in your pocket in situation like this is bad manners. It’s akin to slouching or chewing gum. You just don’t do it in formal situations, because it’s disrespectful.”
The double-hand handshake would have been more appropriate, writes ABC News correspondent Joohee Cho, who is based in Seoul. “A one-hand shake in Korean culture – and also in Asia – is notably casual, done only when the other party is a good friend, of the same or younger age,” Cho writes. “Using one hand with the other tucked in the pants pocket is considered rude here, done when one is expressing superiority to the other.”
Photo evidence shows that it that Gates’ handshake likely wasn’t a slight directed towards Park. Gates has used the hand-in-pocket handshake with other leaders, as well, as evidenced by the below photo compilation that is making the rounds on the Internet. In fact, Gates’ overly casual handshake also caused controversy when he met former South Korean president Lee Myung-Bak in 2008.
Gates was visiting South Korea for three days to promote his start-up nuclear energy company, TerraPower.