South Korean president’s office denies US hot mic insult, but many South Koreans aren’t buying it

South Korean president’s office denies US hot mic insult, but many South Koreans aren’t buying it

Seoul — South Korea’s president denied insulting the United States’ key security ally, claiming it was mistranslated, stoking further domestic mistrust on Friday. Yoon Suk Yeol heard on a hot mic and seen on camera apparently insulting US lawmakers after meeting briefly with President Joe Biden at the Global Fund in New York.

Global Charity Fund
From left, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, President Joe Biden, Ambassador Connie Mudenda (RED) and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol pose for photos during the Seventh Global Fund Replenishment Conference, 21 September 2022, in New York.

Evan Vucci/AP


“How could Biden not lose his sight if these buffoons don’t pass it in Congress?” he appeared to be talking about Mr. Biden’s effort to increase the US contribution to the Global Fund, which would require congressional approval.

The video quickly went viral in South Korea, with a YouTube video garnering five million views in less than a day, and Korean striker Yoon reportedly capitalized on the trending on Twitter.

But presidential office spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye said Yun “had no reason to talk about the US or say the word ‘Maiden.’

Speaking at a news conference in New York on Thursday, Kim claimed that Yun did not actually say “Maiden” but a similar Korean word and that he was referring to South Korean rather than US lawmakers. Yun also pledged more support for the Global Fund from his country at the event this week and will face a political battle to get South Korean lawmakers in the National Assembly to approve it.

South Korean President Yun Suk-yeol gives his first official press conference in Seoul
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during his first official press conference since taking office in May, marking 100 days in office, in Seoul, South Korea on August 17, 2022.

Chung Sung-Jun/Poll/Reuters


A ruling party lawmaker suggested prosecuting the television station that first reported the heated comments about the microphone.

“MBC should be held seriously accountable for its report that has damaged the irreplaceable US-Korea alliance,” wrote lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun on his Facebook account.

But online, many expressed doubts about the government’s response.

“It’s completely embarrassing and embarrassing for our children that our president’s office has come up with such an excuse,” wrote one YouTube commenter.

“I’ve heard it 10 times now. It’s ‘Maiden’ for sure,” added another.

The opposition said Yun’s official denial was akin to telling South Koreans he was “hard of hearing,” Democratic Party lawmaker Chun Jae-soo said in a radio interview on Friday.


US and South Korean forces practice responding to North Korea’s attack

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The United States is a key security ally of South Korea, with Washington stationing around 27,000 troops in the country to to help deal with a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Yoon, a former prosecutor, has been struggling with low domestic approval ratings, with the latest survey on Friday after the heated microphone incident showing him at 28 percent.

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