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South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol's profanity-laced hot mic criticism of U.S. goes viral

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Seoul — Already battling record-low approval ratings, South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol has landed in trouble again after his disparaging remarks about key ally the United States were caught on a hot mic.

Yoon, a political novice who took office in May, is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, and chatted on Wednesday with Joe Biden during a photo op at the Global Fund where the U.S. president had just pledged $6 billion.

"How could Biden not lose damn face if these f****rs do not pass it in Congress?" Yoon was caught saying to his aides afterwards in video that went viral in South Korea.

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

A YouTube video of Yoon's comments racked up over two million views just hours after it was posted, and "f****rs" became the number one trending topic on Twitter in South Korea on Thursday.

"The president's words and actions are the national dignity of the country," one YouTube commenter wrote.

Yoon's crude comments appear to refer to Mr. Biden's drive to increase U.S. funding to the Global Fund, which would require congressional approval. The fund is a global health care initiative founded more than two decades ago to battle HIV and tuberculosis around the world, but which now works to ensure access to health care for people across the developing world.

The United States is South Korea's key security ally, with Washington stationing about 27,000 troops in the country to help counter nuclear-armed North Korea.

U.S. and South Korean forces practice response to North Korea attack 03:51

Yoon, a former prosecutor, has made what analysts describe as a string of unforced errors during his first months in office, which is typically a honeymoon period for new presidents in South Korea.

At one point, his approval rating dropped to 24 percent, although it has since inched up to 32 percent.

His predecessor, Moon Jae-in, enjoyed approval ratings of about 70% at the same stage in his term, polling data showed, and Yoon started work with 52% of people polled thinking he was doing a good job.

The hot mic comments come just days after Yoon's office was forced to defend his decision to skip paying respects to Queen Elizabeth II's coffin lying in state, allegedly due to "heavy traffic."

In August, he was also criticized for a chaotic official response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to South Korea, where she landed after a contentious stop in Taiwan.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi departs Taiwan 04:04

Yoon's critics were swift to seize on his latest alleged gaffe.

Yoon's "foul language tarnishing the U.S. Congress caused a major diplomatic mishap," said Park Hong-keun, floor leader of the opposition Democratic Party.

Yoon's office told AFP it had no comment on the incident.

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