Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has created uproar during his three-day visit to South Korea by kissing an overseas worker on the lips after inviting her on stage — and then asking the woman whether she was single.
Duterte, who has often been criticized for making sexist comments about women, appeared to be trying to lighten up his meeting with the Filipino community in Seoul, but the joke very quickly went flat.
“If the president pulled off a stunt like that at a public event, God knows how we’re going to solve catcalling and sexual harassment,” one Twitter user said. “Duterte’s gimmick in South Korea reinforces and normalizes the mysogynistic attitude several Filipinos have.”
The meeting began well, with Duterte thanking the South Korean government for taking care of Filipinos in the country, GMA News reported. But then he called two young women onto the stage, saying that he would give them a copy of the book Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church.
“You have to pay me with a kiss. Are you ready for kissing?” Duterte reportedly asked. The president briefly pecked one woman on the cheek, then grabbed the second one and kissed her fully on the lips. According to Rappler, he said: “Are you single? You’re not separated from him? But you can tell him that this is just a joke?”
Some social media users cheered Duterte’s actions, even calling him their idol, but the response was mostly hostile.
“I’m not even going to state all the things that’s obviously wrong here. But look at how President Duterte is gripping the Filipina’s forearms while he kisses her in front of an audience,” said a Twitter user.
Feminists are already unhappy with Duterte, after he jokingly told soldiers in February that a new order would be issued for female rebels to be shot in their vaginas.
The president admitted in 2016 that he probably should be more careful with his remarks, especially when it came to women: “Sometimes my mouth can get the better of me,” he said.