A criticism used against US lawmakers by South Korea’s president has gone viral on social media – after a searing microphone called out to him with an expletive.
Yoon Suk Yeol appears to have made the remark after meeting US President Joe Biden at a conference for the Global Fund in New York on Wednesday.
In a video posted by South Korean broadcaster 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 so embarrassing for Biden if those motherfuckers in the National Assembly didn’t approve of this. [bill]“, he seems to say then.
The Global Fund is an international organization trying to beat HIV, TB and malaria in the developing world and Yoon’s remark appears to be a reference to Biden’s pledge to contribute $6 billion, which would require the Congressional approval.
The YouTube clip – which has yet to be taken down – has been viewed more than four million times since it was uploaded and attracted tens of thousands of comments.
Many social media users took to taunting Yoon, while the expletive he used became a popular search term on South Korean online portal Naver.
It is just the latest in what critics say are a series of diplomatic missteps by Yoon, who arrived in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly after attending the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London.
While in London, Yoon’s opponents accused him of disrespect because he missed the chance to see the Queen’s coffin lying in state – which he blamed on heavy traffic .
Last month, he was criticized for failing to meet US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when he visited South Korea as part of an Asia tour.
After what appears to be his latest foreign policy blunder, Yoon’s team has gone on the defensive.
In a briefing with reporters, a senior official in South Korea’s presidential office said the remark was “a private comment” and that it was “inappropriate to link a private comment to a diplomatic outcome”.
The official also said that “it was regrettable” that Yoon was criticized while adhering to “a difficult timetable for the benefit of the national interest”.
“There’s no reason for him to talk about the United States here,” Kim Eun-hye, Yoon’s senior publicist, said in a separate briefing, reiterating that many people seemed to have “misunderstood” his comments.
Back in Seoul, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo addressed the issue during a National Assembly session on Thursday, 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 it seems no one clearly heard the content,” Han said.
His remarks did not escape members of the opposition Liberal Party who commented on the matter in the National Assembly on Thursday.
“Diplomatic disasters are recurring under the Yoon Suk Yeol administration and this is due to the president’s repeated diplomatic incompetence,” they said.