Kim Jong-un all fingers and thumbs in bid for Instagram diplomacy | Social Media
Doing something “for the ‘gram” is not typically associated with international diplomacy, but this did not stop Kim Jong-un making a heartfelt attempt at a South Korean Instagram trend during a summit this week.
“Finger hearts”, a popular social media pose in South Korea, involves people crossing the tips of their forefingers and thumbs, as though about to click their fingers or make a money-grubbing gesture. Also known as “baby hearts”, it is so called because the crossed fingertips are subtly reminiscent of a heart shape.
The North Korean leader attempted the gesture while posing for photographs with South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in on Paektu mountain on Friday, the Korea Herald reported.
“How do you do it? I can’t quite make the shape,” Kim was reported to have said, as he stood beside his wife, Ri Sol-ju, who supported him in the effort.
Kim “ultimately succeeded in making the gesture”, reported the Korea Herald, citing the account of South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae’s spokesperson, Kim Eui-kyeom.
Baby hearts have been a go-to gesture in Korea for years, photographed as far back as 2010, but gaining in recognition overseas through social media.
Eva Chen, Instagram’s fashion editor, flagged it to a western audience at Paris fashion week in March. “People in Korea aren’t doing [peace sign emoji] any longer, they do something called ‘Baby Hearts’,” she wrote in the caption of a photograph of herself with fashion blogger Aimee Song and model Irene Kim. She added: “zoom in to see it”.
Like the relatively strident “hand heart” popularised by Taylor Swift, finger hearts are an expression of love, gratitude, goodwill and gwiyeobda (cute or charming, similar to kawaii in Japan).
Its spread is tied to the increasingly global, and social media-driven, popularity of K-pop bands such as BTS, who often make finger hearts to show their appreciation for their fans.
The K-pop artist G-Dragon claims to have invented the gesture, sharing a photograph of him as a child appearing to be doing finger hearts with his many millions of followers on Instagram in October 2016.
In the caption he wrote: “I was the original finger heart.”
His assertion was challenged shortly afterwards by the comedian Yang Se Hyung, who posted his own seemingly telling childhood snap.
“Hey y’all. I was the original. #Yang Se Hyung # The one who created the finger heart #Reported by mother #Agree?”
The official gloves for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang had the relevant fingertips in red, to achieve maximum finger heart effect. Athletes embraced the gesture with varying levels of gusto.
Visiting celebrities are often exhorted to attempt them for photos and they are a staple shot on red carpets. Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg were photographed doing very focused finger hearts at the Mission: Impossible – Fallout premiere in Seoul in July, as were the Black Panther cast in February.
As Vulture wrote, of the finger hearts reverberating across the world: “Call the Blue House, because cultural diplomacy is taking place!”