Spat over Yoon’s hot mic moment escalates as both sides up the ante
The People Power Party (PPP) said Tuesday it will create a task force to investigate what it called “selective and biased” subtitling of President Yoon Suk-yeol’s hot mic moment in New York last week.
The PPP’s announcement came the same day that the Democratic Party (DP) made clear it would push ahead with plans to punish those in the government it deems at fault for what it has characterized as a gaffe-ridden presidential tour of Britain, the United States and Canada.
The dueling plans by the rival parties represent an escalation in the political spat over comments made by Yoon at a fundraiser in New York hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden.
While exiting the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment Conference, Yoon seemed to say something about someone losing face if a bill is not passed. An expletive was used.
The comments could be heard in a video recording first released last week by MBC, or Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation. Some of Yoon’s remarks in the clip were drowned out by loud music and background noise.
Based on the broadcaster’s subtitles, Yoon was speaking about Biden losing face if he didn’t get congressional approval for something. Initial reports said he was referring to Biden’s pledge to contribute another $6 billion to the Global Fund, which would require U.S. Congress approval.
The PPP, led by floor leader Joo Ho-young, alleges that MBC distorted the president’s remarks.
“MBC basically incorporated tabloid speculation as subtitles for the president’s words,” Joo said at a gathering of all the party’s lawmakers at the National Assembly on Tuesday. “We believe that MBC violated basic journalistic ethics, including fact-checking, in its report,” he added.
Earlier, the presidential office denied that Yoon was referring to members of the U.S. Congress when he used the expletive, saying that he was actually talking about members of Korea’s National Assembly.
The PPP has already filed a libel lawsuit against MBC President and CEO Park Sung-jae, reporters and other relevant individuals for alleged disclosure of false information.
They argued that the report harmed Korea’s “national interests” and demanded an apology from MBC and its CEO’s resignation.
PPP floor leader Joo Ho-young also accused the broadcaster of damaging Korea-U.S. relations by “irresponsibly reporting distorted captions without proper fact-checking, despite a request to refrain from reports that could harm the Korea-U.S. alliance and endanger the safety and lives of the Korean people until the facts were confirmed.”
The DP, which had called for the dismissal of Foreign Minister Park Jin, upped the ante by submitting a formal proposal in the National Assembly for a vote on his removal on Tuesday.
While a vote on Park’s could pass easily given the party’s 169-seat majority in 299-seat legislature, it would likely have little effect as it is not legally binding and President Yoon can simply disregard it.
Joo has asked National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo not to put the DP motion to a vote, arguing a no-confidence vote against the foreign minister would damage national interest by undermining the standing of the country’s top diplomat.
DP Chairman Lee Jae-myung has insisted he will seek to hold accountable those at fault for what he has called “a diplomatic catastrophe.”
“The president’s tour of Britain and the United States has exposed the state of this government’s diplomacy, with the president damaging our country’s standing by failing to pay his respects at Queen Elizabeth II’s lying-in-state and groveling for brief talks with the Japanese prime minister in New York,” Lee said in a speech at the National Assembly on Wednesday, listing alleged gaffes and faux-pas by Yoon during his trip abroad.
Yoon was initially scheduled to visit a Korean War memorial to honor British troops who fought alongside South Korea during the 1950-53 conflict, and pay his respects at Westminster Hall on Sept. 18, the day before the funeral.
The presidential office said both events were canceled due to scheduling issues amid heavy traffic in London, but observers were quick to point out that numerous other heads of state, including Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, managed to make their way to the lying-in-state on the same day.
The DP leader also called for a special parliamentary committee to amend the Constitution to change the current presidential system from a single, five-year term to a four-year term, with the possibility of one re-election.
In his speech, Lee argued that revising the current term limits would increase accountability for incumbents, as well as ensure the continuity of government policy.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]