South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has been heard calling US lawmakers ‘idiots’, saying it would be ‘humiliating’ for President Joe Biden if they did not approve global health funding, according to several reports.
Yoon and Biden met at a conference for the Global Fund in New York on Wednesday. Biden pledged US$6 billion to the organization’s efforts to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Funding requires congressional approval.
“It would be so humiliating for Biden if these idiots don’t pass him in Congress,” Yoon said as he and a group left the Global Fund event, as translated by multiple media outlets.
The video of the comments quickly went viral online. Some translations of Yoon’s comments use an expletive instead of the word “idiots”.
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South Korea’s presidential office said Thursday that Yoon’s comments were not focused on the United States, according to multiple reports. A spokesperson for the president’s office, Kim Eun-hye, said Yoon did not say Biden, but a word that sounds the same in Korean. She also said he was referring to South Korean lawmakers, not US members of Congress.
The hot mic moment didn’t go unnoticed by US lawmakers, however. U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., tweeted Thursday “hey, only we can tell.”
USA TODAY has contacted the White House for comment.
The White House said this week that Biden and Yoon met at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, discussing U.S.-South Korea cooperation and a range of other topics.