By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL, Sept. 23 (Reuters) – A string of gaffes and controversies overshadows South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s first major foreign tour, causing his ratings plummet and evoking scathing criticism from some lawmakers even within his own party.
This week, Yoon visited London for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral and then New York on his first trip to the US to attend the UN General Assembly, before arriving in Canada on Thursday.
In the most notable controversy, Yoon was caught swearing at a hot microphone as he left an event in New York on Wednesday after a brief conversation with US President Joe Biden.
“What a shame…when these bastards refuse to approve it in parliament,” Yoon told Foreign Minister Park Jin in a video broadcast by South Korean broadcasters that went viral on social media.
Opposition lawmakers accused Yoon of insulting Biden and disgracing South Korea, as the media initially reported Yoon saying Biden would be ashamed if Congress does not pass a bill regarding funding for a global initiative.
His press secretary, Kim Eun-hye, dismissed the accusation, saying Yoon referred the South Korean parliament without mentioning Biden.
Reuters could not independently verify what exactly Yoon said.
Yoon’s rude comments sparked criticism from some members of his own party, which the chairman called “deeply regrettable.”
Officials had hoped the trip would be an opportunity to showcase Yoon’s vision for what they called a “global critical state,” deterring North Korea’s weapons tests and addressing other pressing issues, including US subsidies for electrical power. vehicles.
Opposition lawmakers also accused Yoon of “humiliating national prestige” by failing to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth on his first day in London, for which his office blamed heavy traffic. Traffic in London was tightly controlled as mourners queued for miles to see the Queen’s coffin, and some high-ranking guests, including French President Emmanuel Macron, arrived on foot.
They also criticized Yoon for failing to hold proper summits with Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, describing his trip as a “diplomatic disaster”.
Yoon and Biden had scheduled casual talks in New York, but ended up only having a 48-second call at the Global Fund. Yoon’s office said this was a “Plan B” due to changes in Biden’s schedule, and said they also met in London when Yoon raised the issue of EV subsidies.
Controversy erupted earlier after Japanese media reported that Kishida had considered canceling a meeting with Yoon.
An official in Yoon’s office said there were “different opinions” about the timing of the talks announcement and Tokyo appeared “cautious” as both sides explore ways to improve tense ties.
The diplomatic controversies could make it more difficult for Yoon to win the support of the opposition majority in parliament to pass legislation or increase its policy drive and
helped to shorten his voter honeymoon after his election victory in May. Yoon’s approval ratings fell to 28% in a survey by Gallup released Friday from 33% from last week. (Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; editing by Lincoln Feast)