South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol triggered a new controversy after he was picked up on a microphone cursing American lawmakers, after briefly meeting his US counterpart Joe Biden in New York to discuss electric vehicle subsidies.
"What an embarrassment for Biden, if these f*****s refuse to grant it in Congress,” Mr Yoon told foreign minister Park Jin in a video broadcast on South Korean television.
The profanity-laced comments were overheard as the South Korean president and the foreign minister were leaving following a photo op with Mr Biden at a Global Fund event.
The brief video of the newly elected president went viral on social media, prompting criticism from both ruling and opposition lawmakers.
The president's press secretary, Kim Eun-hye, dismissed the allegations, saying Mr Yoon was referring to the South Korean parliament, without explaining why he mentioned Mr Biden.
South Korea's ruling party's floor leader Joo Ho-young called the crude comments "greatly regrettable", while main opposition Democratic Party (DP) floor leader Park Hong-keun urged the president to apologise for "damaging the nation's dignity".
The White House on Wednesday said the presidents discussed cooperation on the security threat posed by North Korea as part of a “broad range of priority issues including supply chain resilience, critical technologies, economic and energy security, global health and climate change”.
The US, a key ally of South Korea, has stationed nearly 27,000 troops in the country to help the nation counter North Korea’s aggression.
Mr Yoon had asked Mr Biden to help address Seoul's concerns that new US rules on electric vehicle subsidies will hurt the country's automakers. Under the Inflation Reduction Act, signed by Mr Biden last month, lucrative tax credits of up to $7,500 are given for the purchase of electric vehicles.
Mr Yoon, seen as something of a political novice, had faced criticism in South Korea for shunning an in-person meeting with US House speaker Nancy Pelosi during her visit last month.
He was recently accused of “demeaning national prestige” by failing to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II on the first day of his trip to London for her state funeral. Mr Yoon’s office blamed heavy traffic.
Earlier, controversy erupted after it was reported that Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida had considered cancelling a meeting with Mr Yoon.
An official at Mr Yoon’s office said there was a “disparity in opinions” over the timing of the announcement of the talks and Tokyo seemed “cautious”.