The South Korean president’s criticism of US lawmakers has gone viral on social media – after a hot microphone picked him up using an expletive.
It appears that Yoon Seok Yeol made the remarks after meeting US President Joe Biden at a Global Fund conference in New York on Wednesday.
In a video posted by South Korean television station MBC on its official YouTube channel on Thursday, Yoon can be seen walking along the stage after chatting with Biden before turning to his aides and speaking.
It would be very embarrassing for Biden if these members of the National Assembly didn’t agree to it [bill]’, then seems to say.
The Global Fund is an international organization trying to defeat HIV, tuberculosis and malaria throughout the developing world, and Yoon’s note appears to refer to Biden’s pledge to contribute $6 billion, which would require congressional approval.
The YouTube clip – which has yet to be removed – has been viewed more than four million times since it was uploaded and pulled in tens of thousands of comments.
Many social media users used to make fun of Yoon, while the expletive he used became a popular search term on South Korean internet portal Naver.
This is just the latest episode in what critics say is a series of diplomatic blunders by Yoon, who arrived in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly after attending Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in London.
While in London, Yoon’s opponents accused him of disrespect for having missed the opportunity to see the Queen’s sarcophagus in case it existed – which he blamed on traffic congestion.
Last month, he was criticized for failing to meet US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she visited South Korea as part of a tour of Asia.
After what appears to be his latest foreign policy misstep, Yoon’s team has taken a defensive stance.
In a briefing with reporters, a spokesperson for South Korea’s presidential official said the comment was a “private comment” and that it was “inappropriate to link a private comment to a diplomatic outcome.”
The official also said it was “unfortunate” that Yoon was criticized while aligning with a “difficult timeline in the interests of the national interest.”
Back in Seoul, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duk-soo addressed the issue at Thursday’s National Assembly session, saying it was “unclear” what Yoon actually said.
“I don’t think I can draw a clear conclusion here about the circumstances in which he said those words…but apparently no one clearly heard the content,” Han said.
He was not lost on the statements of opposition Liberal Party members who commented on the issue in the National Assembly on Thursday.
“Diplomatic disasters are frequent under the Yoon Seok Yeol administration and this is due to the president’s repeated diplomatic incompetence,” they said.