Yoon’s ‘foul language’ shows S.Korea’s strong aversion to US government’s hypocrisy, unreliability
Published: Sep 23, 2022 09:50 PM
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during the Global Fund's Seventh Replenishment Conference in New York City on September 21, 2022.Photo: AFP

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during the Global Fund's Seventh Replenishment Conference in New York City on September 21, 2022.Photo: AFP

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol was caught on a hot mic insulting US Congress members as "idiots" who could be a potential embarrassment for President Biden if they did not approve Biden-pledged funding for global public health, according to The Washington Post. Yoon had just met Biden at the Global Fund's Seventh Replenishment Conference in New York before he used the word in a private talk. There, Biden pledged $6 billion to a health campaign to combat AIDS, TB and malaria worldwide, but the funding will require congressional approval.

Yoon's choice of such language embodied his anxiety, Wang Junsheng, a research fellow of East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a sweeping $750 billion health care, tax and climate bill Biden signed into law, has displeased many countries across the world including South Korea. This act will heavily impact South Korean manufacturers of electric vehicles (EV) and EV batteries.

According to Yoon's office on Wednesday, Yoon asked Biden to address South Korea's concerns over the IRA, and Biden responded that he was well aware of the concerns. However, in the readout of the meeting between Biden and Yoon released by the White House, there was not mention of Seoul's concerns regarding the IRA.

Yoon is often viewed as a pro-US leader. Since taking office, he has basically aligned South Korea with the US in strategy, making Biden's IRA a real slap in the face for Yoon.

As for Yoon's trip to New York, South Korean voters had high hopes for Yoon that he could thoroughly negotiate over the IRA with Biden. But at the Global Fund's Seventh Replenishment event, Yoon was only granted a 48-second spontaneous chat with his US counterpart, which triggered Korean netizens to complain that they had once again experienced "humiliation." Given Yoon's poor approval ratings at home, this awkward situation has escalated his anxiety as he fails to meet domestic demands.

This is not the first time that Biden has given Yoon the cold shoulder. At the NATO summit in Madrid in June, Biden seemed to shake Yoon's hands without making eye contact in a moment captured on video, which went viral on social media then.

The US' deliberate disregard for South Korea has also triggered Seoul to realize that it has been exploited, tricked, and deceived by Washington. Yoon's word "idiots" is obviously expressing his dissatisfaction with the entire US political establishment. All this mirrors how asymmetric the US-South Korea alliance actually is, as well as the US' extreme selfishness in handling relations with allies, which even chilled its allies supposed to have high strategic mutual trust. It is also an embodiment of bumpy US-South Korea ties. The US alliance system is not as solid as one might envision. 

The South Korean public is also aware of their country's asymmetry in the alliance with the US. In response, there is an increasing distrust of the US in the country and the anti-US sentiment is also strong. From many South Koreans' perspective, it is the US' meddling on the Korean Peninsula that is making it difficult to reunite the peninsula. Yoon's "foul language" to some extent reflects the mindsets of many ordinary South Koreans.

This incident suggested that most countries, including South Korea, know about the "disease" which has spread through the US government and Congress. The diplomatic promises Biden has made, especially ones involving considerable amount of financial aid, are difficult to achieve, as the Congress will often act to block Biden's proposals. This impacts Biden's credibility, and demonstrates to the world the hypocrisy and unreliability of the US government. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn.