Photo: Yoon Suk-yeol says "Biden will be fucking humiliated if the pricks at Congress don’t pass this." Credit: SBS News.
President Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 대통령 made an error-ridden tour of the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. The tour was the latest addition to a series of embarrassments Yoon has suffered in foreign policy, which includes an awkward attendance of a NATO summit and snubbing US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who was visiting Seoul after a historic visit to Taiwan. (See previous coverages, “Diplomatic Disaster” and “Diplomatic Disaster, Again.”)
Previously, the Office of the President drew criticism when Yoon Suk-yeol’s tweeted message of condolences, issued more than eight hours after the announcement of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing on September 8, misspelled her name as “Elisabeth.” On September 18, Yoon arrived in London too late to attend a viewing of the late queen’s coffin at Westminster Hall, then blamed the “local traffic conditions.”
Apparently, Yoon’s departure from Seoul was pushed back at the last minute by two hours from 7 a.m. local time to 9 a.m. local time, for unknown reasons. Because of his late arrival, Yoon also had to decline a meeting invitation from Liz Truss, England’s newly elected prime minister whom Yoon had never met.
President Yoon Suk-yeol then met with Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida in New York, in what critics billed as “tributary diplomacy 조공외교.” Previously on September 15, the Yoon administration had announced that Tokyo “gladly agreed 흔쾌히 합의” to hold an ROK-Japan summit meeting for the first time in two years and nine months, while the two leaders were attending the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Japan, however, immediately disputed that there was any agreement to meet, putting the summit meeting in limbo even as the two leaders were both in New York.
At the UNGA, Yoon pressed on with his intention to meet Kishida by visiting Japan’s Mission to the United Nations, to hold a 30-minute talk that was scheduled at the last minute. South Korea’s presidential press pool was not notified of the meeting until after it began, and was not able to cover it. At the meeting, the usually mild mannered Kishida reportedly spoke little and clearly signaled his displeasure at the unplanned meeting, while Yoon continued to speak in order to lengthen the conversation.
The opposition Democratic Party panned the meeting as “tributary diplomacy,” noting that Yoon lowered himself to meet at Japan’s mission where they did not even set up a table with the two countries’ flags.
Video: President Yoon Suk-yeol in a hot mic moment - "Biden will be fucking humiliated if the pricks at Congress don't pass this." Credit: MBC News.
President Yoon Suk-yeol topped off a disastrous tour with a hot mic moment in which he was caught insulting the US Congress with profanity. Determined to meet the US president Joe Biden who did not plan to meet with him, Yoon crashed an event that Biden hosted for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, whose seventh replenishment will be led by the United States’ contribution of USD 3.5b.
After awkwardly hovering around Biden for several minutes, Yoon managed to hold a conversation with Biden for 48 seconds. As he was leaving the event, Yoon was overheard telling Foreign Minister Park Jin 박진 외교부장관: “Biden will be fucking humiliated if the pricks at Congress don’t pass this 국회에서 이 새끼들이 승인 안 해주면 바이든은 쪽팔려서 어떡하나,” apparently referring to the possibility that the US Congress may not approve the contribution to the Global Fund.
Initially responding to the controversy, Prime Minister Han Deok-su 한덕수 국무총리 attempted to defend Yoon: “It’s not as if he said that to President Biden’s face.” Later, the Office of the President claimed that Yoon was referring to South Korea’s National Assembly and there was no reference to Biden - an explanation inconsistent with the clearly audible sentence to the contrary, as well as the presidential office’s initial plea to the media not to broadcast the hot mic moment “for the sake of national interest.”
President Yoon Suk-yeol also visited Canada where he and his staff continued to commit blunders. On September 22 in Toronto, Yoon held a presidential town hall with Korean Canadians. A group of Korean Canadians protested outside of the venue, calling for Yoon to resign. No local Korean Canadian media was allowed in the meeting, in which only two pre-selected attendees were allowed to ask questions to Yoon.
The next day, Yoon met with Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau for the first time since Yoon took office. Following the meeting, Yoon announced on his Facebook page that he had secured the investment of Applied Materials, saying: “Canada’s world-leading semiconductor equipment company decided to invest in an R&D center in Yongin[, Gyeonggi-do Province] 경기도 용인.” An hour later, the presidential office edited the sentence out of the announcement after many noted that Applied Materials is a US company, and its decision to invest was made back in July.
After his return, Yoon Suk-yeol and the ruling People Power Party responded to criticism by attacking the media outlet that broke the news of the hot mic moment. Continuing the brazen gaslighting that denies the plainly audible profanity, Yoon insisted that MBC News, which initially reported the moment in which the president cursed at the US Congress, “damaged the ROK-US alliance by issuing a report contrary to facts.” The PPP’s Floor Leader Ju Ho-yeong 주호영 국민의힘 원내대표 added that his party would “take several measures” against MBC, a major network television station, including a criminal complaint.
In response, Democratic Party Floor Leader Park Hong-geun 박홍근 민주당 원내대표 said the president was “hiding the truth and threatening the press.” Park also demanded Yoon sack Foreign Minister Park Jin 박진 외교부장관, National Security Advisor Kim Seong-han 김성한 국가안보실장, Deputy National Security Advisor Kim Tae-hyo 김태효 국가안보실 차장, and the president’s Senior Secretary of Public Relations Kim Eun-hye 김은혜 홍보수석.