South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol was caught on a hot mic Wednesday insulting U.S. Congress members as “idiots” who could be a potential embarrassment for President Biden if they did not approve funding for global public health.
Yoon had just met with Biden at the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment Conference in New York City. There, Biden had pledged $6 billion from the United States to the public health campaign, which fights AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria worldwide. The funding would require congressional approval.
“It would be so humiliating for Biden if these idiots don’t pass it in Congress,” Yoon was overheard telling a group of aides as they left the event. Video of the exchange quickly went viral in South Korea, where Yoon took office in May.
Representatives for Yoon did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. A spokesman for the National Security Counsel said in a statement Thursday it would “not comment on the hot mic comments.”
“Our relationship with the Republic of Korea is strong and growing,” the statement said. “President Biden counts President Yoon as a key ally. The two leaders had a good, productive meeting on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday.”
Park Hong-keun, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party in South Korea, criticized Yoon’s “foul language tarnishing the U.S. Congress” as “a major diplomatic mishap,” Agence France-Presse reported.
Yoon and Biden were both in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, where they held discussions on the sidelines Wednesday.
“The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance and ensure close cooperation to address the threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” the White House said in a readout of their meeting. “The Presidents also discussed our ongoing cooperation on a broad range of priority issues including supply chain resilience, critical technologies, economic and energy security, global health, and climate change.”
Min Joo Kim contributed to this report.