By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL, Sept 23 (Reuters) – South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s first major overseas trip has been overshadowed by a series of scandals and controversies, sending his ratings plummeting and inviting sharp criticism from some lawmakers. even within his own party.
This week, Yoon visited London for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral and then New York in his first US trip to attend the UN General Assembly, before arriving in Canada on Thursday.
In the height of the controversy, Yoon was caught cursing on a hot microphone while leaving an event in New York on Wednesday after a brief conversation with US President Joe Biden.
“It’s a shame … if these bastards refuse to approve it in parliament,” Yoon told Foreign Minister Park Jin in a video broadcast by South Korean broadcasters, which went viral on social media.
Opposition lawmakers accused Yoon of insulting Biden and embarrassing South Korea as the media first reported that Yoon would be embarrassed if the US Congress did not pass a bill related to funding initiatives run globally.
His press secretary, Kim Eun-hye, dismissed the accusation, saying Yoon was referring to the South Korean parliament and not to Biden.
Reuters could not independently verify what Yoon said exactly.
Yoon’s crude comments drew criticism from some members of his own party, and the floor leader said he was “deeply sorry.”
The officials hoped the trip would be an opportunity to demonstrate Yoon’s vision for what they called a “critical global state”, banning North Korea’s weapons tests and addressing other pressing issues with includes US subsidies for electric vehicles.
Opposition lawmakers also accused Yoon of “diminishing national pride” by failing to honor Queen Elizabeth on her first day in London, which his office blamed on heavy traffic. Traffic in London was tightly controlled as thousands of mourners queued to see the queen’s coffin, with several high-profile guests including French President Emmanuel Macron arriving 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 planned informal talks in New York, but only had a 48-second conversation at the World Fund. Yoon’s office said it 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.
Earlier, the controversy arose after Japanese media reported that Kishida had considered canceling a meeting with Yoon.
An official in Yoon’s office said there was a “difference of opinion” over the timing of the announcement of the talks and that Tokyo appeared “cautious” as both sides explored ways to improve strained ties.
The diplomatic disputes could make it more difficult for Yoon to gain the support of the opposition, which has a majority in parliament, to pass legislation or to strengthen and encourage his policy drive.
he helped cut short a voter’s honeymoon after his victory in the May election. Yoon’s approval ratings fell to 28% in a Gallup survey released Friday from 33% last week. (Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Lincoln Feast)