South Korean Leader’s Foul-Mouthed Impulsiveness Encounters the US’s Short Attention Span

South Korea's President Yoon gives a piece of his mind after a "drive-by summit" with Joe Biden

Zola not Hemingway at the White House

According to the US State Department, President Joe Biden met with South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting on September 21st. The White House readout is worth quoting in its entirety:

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. met today with President Yoon Suk Yeol of the Republic of Korea (ROK) on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance and ensure close cooperation to address the threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Presidents also discussed our ongoing cooperation on a broad range of priority issues including supply chain resilience, critical technologies, economic and energy security, global health, and climate change.

This terse three sentence statement comes across as the typical say-nothing-boilerplate of US meetings with foreign dignitaries.  That is, until you realize the meeting lasted all of 48 seconds.  Yes, 48 seconds, including translation between English and Korean and back. President Biden has been known to spend that much time trying to form a single sentence, never mind the interpretation.  The description of the meeting takes longer to read out loud than the actual meeting.

The White House scribe who wrote this readout had to expand every last word and action in the meeting to make it seem like something substantive was actually “discussed” during this drive-by.

This is paid-by-the-word Emile Zola-esque padding, not the Hemingway-telegram prose that often characterizes the US government’s laconic, mirandized, Kremlin-bunker statements on complex issues.

South Korea’s Lenny Bruce goes to New York

How did Pres. Yoon take this abbreviated micro-meeting?  With a short stand up routine that would have done Lenny Bruce proud. (Lenny Bruce was a comedian who used obscenity to point to social truths).  In fact, the South Korean President’s vulgarity is a match made in (comedy) heaven for the short attention span of the cognitively-challenged US President.

The foul-mouthed South Korean President was recorded cursing out the US political class and President Biden as he was walking away from this “drive-by summit” with Biden.

The Yoon administration had expected a substantial summit with Biden to discuss core issues affecting South Korea, among them, the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act) legislation.  Among other things, this US law eliminates the $7500 tax credit for electric vehicles (EVs) made outside North America. Originally intended to exclude China’s lead in sustainable energy technologies, it also disadvantages the US market for South Korean automakers such as Kia and Hyundai, who will not build cars within the US until 2025.

South Korea sees this as a betrayal by the US, after South Korea’s Yoon administration bowed and scraped to US policy dictates such as the Chip 4 Act. These dictates reinforce and escalate a growing economic enclosure and blockade that the US is waging against China, initiated by Trump but originally conceived by the Obama administration and planned by neocons even before then. Elements of this economic warfare, pre-textually labeled as “supply chain resilience” or “clean tech transition”,  come at great costs to the South Korean economy, which is struggling to get back on its feet.  The costs of following this US policy of containment against China is very damaging to the South Korean economy because China is South Korea’s largest trading partner.  Thus South Korea had reasonably expected at least a bone thrown its way regarding EV’s.  Instead, the US has set up the South Korean EV industry for massive failure.

Instead of a sit-down summit meeting to substantially discuss South Korea’s substantial concerns on the collateral damage, President Yoon was given a 48 second glad-handing drive-by after the UN Global Fund Replenishment Conference — to which he had been invited only as an afterthought.

Yoon’s political fortunes are cratering in South Korea, where polls show him as one of the most unpopular presidents in South Korea’s modern history.  Hopes had been placed for at least a 30-minute hearing with President Biden that might yield some trickle-down benefits, possibly even some indulgences regarding EV credits for South Korea.  Instead, Yoon had to settle for a quick drive up to the favor window of the White House — where Yoon had placed his order ahead of time — and then was handed a big, fat, juicy nothingburger.

President Yoon was certainly pissed off that Biden could only spare 48 seconds of his time in a “sidelines meeting”.  But even more significantly, the fact that he came up grabbing air could not have pleased the Korean president.  To return empty-handed to Korea after a quickie glad-handling — a political pump-and-dump — only adds to the humiliation.  He spoke his mind to a thicket of cameras and microphones as he was walking away:

If those f***ers in the US Congress don’t pass the [the 6 Billion Global Fund appropriations] bill, how will Biden live down the sh*t-faced embarrassment?

Yoon’s humiliation here compounded Biden’s “you don’t even exist” handshake earlier with Yoon at the NATO summit in Madrid earlier this year.

Trash-talking Teenage Tit-for-Tat 

Let it be noticed that President Yoon, hardly a person to let bygones be bygones, has given as good as he has gotten in the past. For example, he treated Nancy Pelosi to a full-on diplomatic ice-out when she travelled to Seoul to cool down after her ill-conceived attempt to provoke China over Taiwan.   Expecting a rousing Shero’s welcome from sycophants in the subjugated US neo-colony of South Korea, Pelosi was greeted with nothing, not even a meeting with middle-ranking staff.

Pres. Yoon Suk Yeol refused to meet her in person — despite being only 15 minutes away by a slow cab in bad traffic — claiming he was “on vacation” — a political absurdity: affairs of state in South Korea have no holidays.  To rub in the insult, Pres. Yoon leisurely attended a theater performance that day and then treated the performers to a lavish banquet that lasted late into the night.  Nancy Pelosi was not invited to the dinner nor even for dessert, where it is rumored that her favorite gourmet chocolate ice cream was served and savored.  Yoon also refused to send any ministerial staff to greet her, a first in South Korean diplomatic history.

Yoon’s teenage trash-talking of the US political class astounds only those who don’t know Yoon and those who assume US vassals love their masters rather than despising them with every bone in their sycophantic bodies.

Characterized as an unfortunate indiscretion in the MSM– with expert and amateur lexicologists trying to decipher whether Yoon had referred to the US Congress as “b*tches”, “b*stards”, “c*nts”, or “f*ckers”, this behavior is actually par for the course for President Yoon, who is known for making colorful spontaneous statements to the press.

Many Korean males perfect the fine art of swearing in the military.  President Yoon’s salty language is unlikely to come from this. As South Korea’s most infamous draft dodger — with vision problems (anisometropia) that seem to vanish near a golf course or pool hall — his potty mouth is more likely an ingrained characteristic of the incestuously silver-spooned, impulse-control-free ruling class that Yoon belongs to.  In fact, the South Korean president has a history of making inappropriate statements when he is not handled and tightly scripted, and is widely considered a walking hot mike.

Be Careful What You Wish For

The US political class had exulted after President Yoon’s election, lauding Yoon as “the perfect US Partner” in lockstep with the US”. This was after years of the Moon Jae-In administration’s passive-aggressive cock-blocking of their belligerent Pivot to Asia.

President Moon Jae-In was a former student radical and a key leader of South Korea’s radical 386 generation — the generation that had protested US Imperialism and eventually brought down the US-quisling dictator Chun Doo Hwan.  He ran on a platform of “Saying No to the US”.

President Moon, during his presidency, had tried to wrest back South Korean control of OpCon (Operational Control) of ROK troops that are currently under US control (in wartime), tried to obstruct THAAD placement on South Korean soil, sought to de-escalate tensions and normalize relations with North Korea, and generally tried to triangulate between Washington and Beijing as the US was escalating its hybrid war on China.  President Moon was not successful in his efforts, and was thwarted at every turn by the US.

This is because the US requires elevated tension with North Korea as pretext to operationalize its geostrategic hostility against China in North-East Asia. Likewise, continued control of South Korea’s military is essential for US military plans against China.  Moon’s attempts to normalize North-South economic exchange through cross-border rail would also have turned South Korea into the far eastern terminus of the Chinese BRI (Belt and Road Initiative). The US crippled this initiative before it could get out of the starting blocks.

Moon’s designated 386 generation successor, the progressive Mayor of Seoul, Park Won Soon died in a sudden, unexpected, and suspicious suicide halfway through Moon’s administration.  This echoed the fate of Moon’s predecessor and mentor, Roh Moo Hyun, who also died in a suspicious “suicide” after his presidential term.  This left the presidential election field open, and a dunce’s dunce with no political experience — sometimes compared to Donald Trump — a chief prosecutor by the name of Yoon Seok Yul — entered the fray.

Candidate Yoon ran on a right wing platform of misogyny, stupidity, and sycophancy to the US.  This was highlighted when he wrote a slavishly sycophantic essay in Foreign Affairs.  The article, a sophomoric copy-and-paste job of State Department tropes against China, would have been laughed out of any classroom as plagiarism, except that it so deeply reflected what the US ruling class craved to hear:

A deeper alliance with Washington should be the central axis of Seoul’s foreign policy. South Korea has benefited from the global and regional order led by the United States. Seoul should seek a comprehensive strategic alliance with Washington…[and] actively promote a free, open, and inclusive order in the Indo-Pacific..[and]  willingly participate in Quadrilateral Security Dialogue..[and] trilateral security coordination with the United States and Japan.

This obsequiousness — a love letter to the US, a Confession of the Doctrine of the Faith — that offered the US Indo-Pacific Strategy back to it on a silver platter days before the South Korean election, won favor with the Biden Administration and Yoon was openly endorsed by powerful members of the US political class.

On election night, Yoon squeaked by against his progressive opponent in the closest election in the history of South Korea.  Washington was overjoyed. It repaid the Yoon’s administration’s slavish obsequiousness by refusing to meet with a high level delegation to Washington that had gone to present its credentials.  Instead of receiving a stroking, it was an early humiliation that foreshadowed the many ways in which the Biden administration would ignore and take Yoon for granted.

Little does the US understand that President Yoon — a political loose cannon — has the potential to inadvertently blow up US-South Korea relations in ways that they have not even begun to imagine. Pump-and-dump-the-chump is a bad way to keep its important clients, especially since the Yoon administration are not lovelorn fools but crafty opportunists. South Korea’s supply chain collaboration with China may only be the start.

As the US Empire unravels and its resentful vassals squirm and scatter, the colorful language should be the least of their concerns.

K.J. Noh is a long time activist, writer, and teacher. He is a member of Veterans for Peace and works on global justice issues. He can be reached at: Read other articles by K.J..