South Korea has been engulfed in a global scandal after its president was overheard insulting the US – a crucial ally – in an expletive-laden spray.
President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has only been in the top job since May, is currently in New York for the UN General Assembly.
On Wednesday, he met with US President Joe Biden, with the pair snapped at the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment Conference enjoying a friendly-seeming chat about US electric vehicle subsidies, which South Korea would like to change.
At the moment, under America’s Inflation Reduction Act, there are lucrative tax credits of up to $US7500 ($A11,294) for purchases of electric vehicles made in the continent.
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But Yoon is facing mounting pressure to reverse it, amid fears it could cripple South Korean car giants such as Hyundai and Kia, which don’t yet have EV plants up and running in the US.
Immediately after meeting Biden, Yoon was caught on hot mic telling Foreign Minster Park Jin American politicians were “idiots” as the pair left the event.
“How could Biden not lose damn face if these f****rs do not pass it in Congress?” he could be heard saying.
The exchange was broadcast on South Korean TV and has also gone viral on YouTube and social media platforms, with “f****rs” trending on Twitter in Yoon’s homeland.
The scandal has become a major embarrassment for Yoon, who is already facing record-low approval ratings in what should be his honeymoon period, after coming to power a mere four months ago.
Park Hong-keun, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party in South Korea, hit out at Yoon’s “foul language tarnishing the US Congress”, branding it “a major diplomatic mishap”, according to Agence France-Presse.
Social media users were also quick to lash Yoon’s comments, with one angry YouTube commenter posting that: “The president’s words and actions are the national dignity of the country,”.
So far, Yoon’s representatives have not commented on the row, and a spokesman for the National Security Counsel said in a statement it would “not comment on the hot mic comments”.
“Our relationship with the Republic of Korea is strong and growing,” the statement said, according to the New York Times.
“President Biden counts President Yoon as a key ally.
“The two leaders had a good, productive meeting on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly (on Wednesday).”
It comes after a slew of recent missteps for Yoon, who saw his approval rating plummet to a stunning 24 per cent at one point, before it rose slightly.
He found himself under fire recently for blaming “heavy traffic” for his decision not to pay respects to the late Queen Elizabeth as her coffin was lying in state, while he was also slammed for the official response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to South Korea after her controversial trip to Taiwan.