Beset by controversies about share price manipulation and a costly gifted handbag, South Korea's first lady has not been seen in public since Dec. 15, but few in Seoul were surprised as a high-stakes parliamentary election approaches this month.

President Yoon Suk-yeol is not running in the April 10 election in which his People Power Party faces an uphill battle to win back control of parliament, and is also barred from campaigning, as he already holds public office.

Still, the unprecedented absence from public view of his wife, Kim Keon-hee, after the couple returned from a visit to the Netherlands on Dec. 15, is seen by analysts as a political decision to shield the party from any negative comment.