We didn't notice Bill Gates's one-armed, one-hand-in-his-pocket salutation until South Korean media brought the apparently "rude" gesture to our attention this morning. Turns out, the Microsoft founder and world do-gooder's awkward style of handshake is, well, downright offensive in some parts of the world. It also turns out Gates has been doing the pocket shake for years.
Gates met with new South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday, and here's the handshake in question (we've circled the ruse part):
Catch that? Gates has his left hand (he's left-handed) in his pants pocket. And that's — well, that's pretty creepy in any country. But in South Korea it's flagrantly offensive. ABC News's Joohee Cho explains:
Gates, 57, might have not realized it Monday, but 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. Using one hand with the other tucked in the pants pocket is considered rude here, done when one is expressing superiority to the other.
Some South Korean media outlets have actually gone so far as to crop out the offending Gates appendage. Others, such as JoongAng Daily, highlighted the other hand — it's on pretty much every front page in the country today, and South Korean TV has gone all-out, complete with meteorologist-style green screens. "Bill Gates' putting one of his hand in his pocket while shaking hands with the president gave rise to a question whether he was rude to do so," reported South Korea's Dong-al-Ilbo.