South Korean President Yoon’s Reacts with Profanity to Biden’s U.N. Speech; Caught on a Hot Mic

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol recently went viral for his hot mic reaction to President Biden’s remarks at the United General Assembly. President Yoon, who took office in May, reacted to Biden’s pledge to increase the United States’ contribution to the United Nations Global Fund, which requires congressional approval. 

“How could Biden not lose damn face if these f—ers do not pass it in Congress?” the South Korean president asked his aides on a hot mic. President Biden continued to repeat the talking point that the U.S. has been respected again on the world stage since his election in 2020. 

Yoon’s comments raised serious concern in South Korea, as strong U.S.-Korean relations are crucial for the mutual defense of the region in East Asia. “He wasn’t speaking publicly on the stage but in passing, and although I don’t know who recorded it and how, I actually think it should be verified,” said a South Korean official to reporters following the hot mic situation.

“I think it’s highly inappropriate to draw a link between private remarks and diplomatic accomplishments,” said the official when referring to growing criticism that Yoon had created a diplomatic disaster. “It’s quite remarkable that a diplomatic disaster is being talked about over something like that when he is doing everything to complete a demanding schedule in the national interest of the Republic of Korea.”

South Korean, Japanese, and U.S. military forces worked together last month in a trilateral missile defense exercise — the first formal cooperation between the nations since December of 2017. Drills started at the beginning of August and ran through recent days. 

The exercise reassured allied nations of joint and individual commitments to mutual defense. Most notably, the cooperation between Japan and South Korea could ease lingering cultural tensions in recent years.

President Yoon is already battling record-low approval ratings, and the recent remarks disparaging the U.S. has landed him in hot water. The South Korean president is a novice to politics who took office in May, has been in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, and chatted with Biden during a photo op at the Global Fund. 

The YouTube video of Yoon making the comments racked up over two million views only two hours after it was posted, with “f****rs” quickly becoming the top trending topic in South Korea the same day. “The president’s words and actions are the national dignity of the country,” wrote one YouTube commenter. 

The Global Fund is a worldwide health care initiative founded over two decades ago to battle tuberculosis and HIV around the world and also seeks to ensure access for people in the developing world to health care. The United States is the critical security ally of South Korea, stationing about 27,000 troops within its borders to help counter nuclear-armed North Korea.

South Korean president plagued by errors

Former prosecutor Yoon made what many analysts describe as an endless string of unforced errors in his first few months of office, traditionally considered a honeymoon period for new presidents in South Korea. His approval rating has dropped to 24 percent, although it has increased to 32 percent. 

According to polling data, Yoon’s predecessor, Moon Jae-in, had enjoyed approval ratings above 70% at the same stage in his presidency. When Yoon took office, 52% of individuals polled thought he was doing a good job. 

The president’s hot mic comments came only days after his office was forced to defend his decision not to pay respects to Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin lying in state after her death because of “heavy traffic.” Yoon was also criticized for his administration’s chaotic response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s visit to South Korea after her contentious visit to Taiwan. Critics of Yoon were quick to seize onto his most recent gaffe. 

Floor leader of the opposition Democratic Party, Park Hong-keun said Yoon’s “foul language tarnishing the U.S. Congress caused a major diplomatic mishap.”