An altered video purportedly showing digital billboards in New York City's Times Square displaying "humiliating" clips of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and First Lady Kim Keon Hee has been shared in multiple Korean-language social media posts. The original video of the tourist hotspot shows the billboards were in fact showing adverts, not clips of Yoon or Kim.

"The fact that such a thing became president through an election that was free of procedural issues is the most humiliating part. I want to gather all the '2jjik' and dump them into Fukushima Bay," reads the Korean-language caption of a video shared on Facebook here on December 10, 2023.

The caption is referring to South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and the people who cast votes for him, using the term "2jjik".

The term combines the Korean verb for "to cast" with Yoon's candidate number from the last election.

The video, titled "Current situation in New York Times Square.gif". was shared as Yoon's approval ratings steadily declined and Kim faced allegations of corruption (archived links here and here).

Local media reported that Yoon was expected to face a considerable backlash from the South Korean public over his attempts to improve ties with former colonial ruler Japan, and his government's acceptance of Tokyo's release of wastewater from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant (archived links here and here).



Below is a screenshot comparison between the Facebook video (left) and numerous clips of Yoon and First Lady Kim Keon Hee that appear to have been displayed on the Times Square billboards (right).



Clip 1 shows Yoon appearing to briefly touch crotch during an interview with South Korea's Maeil Business Newspaper in July 2021, when he was still a presidential hopeful (archived link).

Clip 2 shows an excerpt from a December 14, 2021 report about allegations that Kim had previously worked as a hostess (archived links here and here). Kim has denied these rumours. In the clip, she is shown hiding her face from reporters.

Clip 3 is from a newscast by local channel YTN showing Yoon, while he was a presidential candidate, visiting a market and eating chicken feet with legislator Kim Song-won on November 8, 2021 (archived link).

Clip 4 shows Yoon walking past 10 Downing Street, the official residence and office of the British prime minister, prior to a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on November 22, 2023 (archived link).

A fifth clip, shown below, also appears to be displayed on a billboard on another building in Times Square.



The clip shows an excerpt from South Korean broadcaster MBC's investigative report into allegations Kim plagiarised some of her academic papers while attending Sookmyung Women's University and Kookmin University (archived links here and here).

Kookmin University has cleared the first lady, but Sookmyung Women's University's review is still ongoing (archived links here and here).

The altered video was also shared on various South Korean online forums, including DPrime, Today Humor, East Side Story and Talk-cargo.

Comments on the posts suggest some users were aware the video had been altered, but others appeared to believe it was genuine.

Times Square night scene

A keyword search on YouTube led to a longer video that was published on June 2, 2023 (archived link).

The video is titled, "Shining Lights of Time Square in 8K - Nighttime City Life of New York City".

The altered video uses a cropped section of this video starting from its 1:26 mark.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the altered video (left) and the YouTube video (right), with the portion used in the altered video highlighted by AFP:



In the YouTube video, the billboards are displaying adverts for various brands -- not clips of Yoon or Kim.

A closer look at the YouTube video shows the billboards supposedly showing Yoon eating chicken feet and walking past 10 Downing Street were in fact showing adverts for Swatch and Levi's -- the shops underneath the billboards.

Google Street View imagery from August 2022 also shows the billboards showing adverts for the two shops (archived link).

The billboards supposedly displaying Yoon appearing to briefly touch his crotch and Kim hiding her face from reporters is in fact one large billboard displaying an advert for music streaming service Pandora.

The billboard supposedly showing a clip from the investigative news piece on Kim does not exist in those same dimensions at that location. The altered video appears to have overlaid the clip across several screens that are advertising M&M's.

The Google Street View imagery from August 2022 shows these billboards displaying adverts for a TV show and Coca-Cola.

The South Korean president and first lady are frequent targets of misinformation, some of which AFP has debunked here, here and here.