South Korean lawmakers call for sacking of foreign minister

South Korea’s opposition-controlled National Assembly passed a resolution on Thursday calling for the foreign minister to be fired over a series of alleged diplomatic misdeeds, including controversial remarks by President Yoon Suk Yeol that have come under fire in the United States.

The proposal is not legally binding and does not suspend Foreign Minister Park Jin. But the attempt to oust a key cabinet minister and Yoon’s close confidant further exacerbates the political rift between the conservative president and his liberal rivals.

The 299-member National Assembly approved Park’s no-confidence motion by a vote of 168-1. One lawmaker cast a blank ballot, while ruling party lawmakers outnumbered and others opposed to Park’s dismissal boycotted the vote.

The motion, introduced by the main opposition Democratic Party, held Park responsible for what she called “an unprecedented diplomatic disaster” arising from Yoon’s recent trip to Britain, the United States and Canada. The motion said the trip had no diplomatic achievements and undermined South Korea’s national interest and international image.

At the center of the alleged errors cited in the proposal were comments Yun made in New York after a brief conversation with President Joe Biden at a Global Fund conference.

A microphone belonging to South Korea’s MBC television caught Yoon talking to Park and other aides. Some parts of the audio were unclear and MBC added subtitles that read “Wouldn’t it be very embarrassing for Biden if these idiots in the legislature don’t approve?” The captions suggested that Yoon insulted Biden and the US Congress about possibly rejecting Biden’s plan to contribute to the global initiative.

After the video was widely shared on South Korean social media, Yoon’s office denied it was referring to Biden or the US Congress. Yoon later accused the media of damaging South Korea’s alliance with the United States with inaccurate reports.

Other alleged diplomatic failures cited in the motion included a “humiliating” unilateral effort to improve relations with Japan, which it said had made no progress in easing bilateral differences in history. The resolution also accused Yoon of failing to properly convey South Korea’s concerns to Biden about a US law that excludes electric vehicles made outside North America from US subsidies.

Yoon’s office responded that talks he had with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in New York last week created momentum to improve ties. It said Yun confirmed in his meeting with Biden the US’s willingness to work with South Korea on the electric vehicle law and other issues.

Yun’s possible rejection of the impeachment motion would be a political burden for him because the Democratic Party is likely to criticize him for ignoring the legislature. But the Democratic Party has also been criticized for using Park as a scapegoat because the National Assembly does not have the right to pass motions of no confidence in senior presidential officials, who they say were more directly responsible for the recent diplomatic issues than Park.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *