Bill Gates is dedicating his life to helping others. But let's not judge him on that. Let's judge him on how he shakes hands. Because that's important.
The above photo is all over the South Korean press. Gates is shaking hands with President Geun Hye Park. He has one hand in his pocket. That's a no-no. A huge no-no.
Here is a Korean news broadcast analyzing the pocket incident:
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.
As tipster Sang points out, some in South Korea are chalking this up to cultural differences. Others say Bill Gates is rude. (I'd say the guy probably doesn't know this is a faux pas in Korea.)
There's even a blown-out image (sorry!) floating around Korean cyberspace, showing how Gates has greeted people in Korea in the past:
In the top left, you can see Gates using two hands to greet a Korean sixth grader. In the photo next to it, Gates is once again shaking both hands with former president Dae Jung Kim. In the bottom photos, you can see him using a less respectful single handshake (complete with hand-in-pocket) while meeting previous president Myung Bak Lee and the current president Geun Hye Park.
All this, of course, is causing people online in Korea to search for other Bill Gates handshake images.
It seems Gates is a long-time, serial hand-in-pocket shaker. Even Bono cannot stop him.
On social networking sites, the reaction has varied in South Korea. "Even considering the cultural difference, there is an appropriate manner for certain occasions . . . how can he put his hand in his pocket when meeting a leader of the state?" tweeted msryu67 (via AP).
Others pointed out that Korean manners were not the norm everywhere. Though, it's worth noting that shaking hands like this probably wouldn't fly in other Asian countries as well. South Korea, however, might be more sensitive to something like this at the moment, because Park was recently elected. This is the country's new President.
"Gates is a casual man who's not bound by customs so he shakes hands in this manner even when meeting heads of international organizations or top political figures," a Korean newspaper (also via AP) quoted an unnamed Gates friend as saying.
Remember what they say: When in Rome, do as the Romans. That is, unless you are the third richest man in the world on a goodwill mission. Then, I guess, do whatever the hell you want.
빌 게이츠, 朴대통령과 '주머니 악수'...의견 분분 [Herald Thanks, Sang!]