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[Opinion] Crossing Legs

Posted March. 11, 2005 22:37,   


It was an electrifying discussion between president Roh Moo-hyun and prosecutors, televised live in March 2003. Citizens tuned in to the debate “without rank patches” between the president and the prosecutors. The person who instantaneously caught our attention, however, was the seated justice minister, Kang Keum-shil. Watching the first female Minister of Justice in constitutional history wearing a short skirt and crossing her legs on TV, Koreans realized that the world had changed.

In terms of body language, “crossing legs” expresses confidence, rebelling against authority, or implies sexual provocation. But politically, it often replaces “power struggles.” During a summit meeting between presidents Park Chung-hee and Jimmy Carter in 1970, Park Chung-hee showed his discomfort by crossing his legs hastily as Carter hashed over the human rights situation within Korea. At every summit meeting between Korea and the U.S., former president Kim Young-sam is said to have crossed his legs, treating a stiff President Bill Clinton in the next seat as his political protégé, and even pressing Clinton to his seat by the thigh when he rose to leave in the middle of a conversation.

A certain press-release photo capturing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responding to questions asked by representatives during her confirmation is a hot topic. Many were riveted, not by her facial expressions and hand gestures above the desk, but by her stiffly crossed legs below it. It appears at once intelligent and self-assured. Could it be that she was able to do a sophisticated calculation in momentarily distracting and intimidating the house members who examined her?

In the movie “Basic Instinct,” leading actress Sharon Stone’s crossed legs were sensational, rendering men senseless. With that single scene of Sharon Stone crossing her legs at her interrogators and puffing away on a cigarette, she rose to the status of a sex symbol and swept away $400 million. Fans even disputed whether Sharon Stone was indeed without underwear in this scene. By crossing her legs, Rice comes off intelligent and confident, while Sharon Stone is interpreted to be sexually provocative.

Oh Myung-chul, Editorial writer, oscar@donga.com