“It would be very humiliating for Biden if these morons don’t get this in Congress,” Yoon was heard telling a group of aides as he left the event. The video of the exchange quickly went viral in South Korea, and Yun took office as a political rookie in May. He has never participated in elections and has no experience in foreign policy.
South Korea’s presidential office denied Yoon’s remarks were directed against the United States on Thursday. His spokesman said Yoon did not mention Biden by name and that a similar-sounding word in Korean was misheard. Spokesperson Kim Eun-hye also said that Yun was referring to the South Korean parliament instead of the US Congress.
Kim did not surprise critics in Seoul. The chairman of the opposition Democratic Party, Park Hong-geun, called it a “baseless excuse” that the presidential office is trying to cover up a “diplomatic disaster”.
A spokesman for the National Security Council said in a statement Thursday that it “will not comment on hot mic comments.”
The statement reads: “Our relations with the Republic of Korea are strong and growing. “President Biden considers President Yoon a key ally. The two leaders had a good and productive meeting yesterday within the framework of the General Assembly of the United Nations.”
Yoon and Biden were both in New York for the UN General Assembly, where they held discussions on the sidelines on Wednesday.
“The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the US-DPRK alliance and ensure close cooperation to eliminate the threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” the White House said in the reading of the meeting. “The presidents also discussed our continued cooperation on a wide range of priority issues, including supply chain sustainability, critical technologies, economic and energy security, global health and climate change.”
The president’s meeting comes amid heightened trade tensions between the allies over the Biden administration’s new rules on subsidies for electric cars. The Inflation Relief Act signed by Biden would eliminate consumption tax credits for South Korean automakers that do not have EV plants operating in the United States.
“President Yoon has asked for close cooperation with the US administration to address our concerns in the implementation process of the Inflation Reduction Act,” Yoon’s office said in a statement.
Min Joo Kim reported from Seoul.
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