U.S. President Donald Trump has a habit of saying things that force fact-checkers to do a double-take.
In February, he made comments that pointed to terror activity in Sweden. There was no terror activity in Sweden that month.
And in a speech to a joint session of Congress last month, he took credit for automakers deciding to invest in the United States — even though those plans were set in motion under Barack Obama.
Now, Trump’s sense of history is under attack: he’s being criticized for saying that Korea was once a part of China.
South Korea checked. It wasn’t.
Trump made the claim in an April 12 interview with The Wall Street Journal. Recounting a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump said the pair talked about the history of China and Korea.
“And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years … and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes I realized that … it’s not so easy,” he said.
The comments appeared in a transcript of the interview but not in the article itself, according to Korea JoongAng Daily, a South Korean newspaper.
The newspaper noted that it’s possible Trump misheard what the Chinese president said, or whether he “came up with that interpretation on its own.”
Staff at the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs went as far as checking with diplomatic routes including China and the U.S. to confirm whether Trump was right.
Bloomberg quoted South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck as follows: “It’s a clear fact acknowledged by the international community that, for thousands of years in history, Korea has never been part of China.”
The lack of truth in that claim hasn’t stopped it from becoming an issue in South Korea’s presidential election.
Liberty Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo, through a spokesman, called the claim a “clear distortion of history and an invasion of the Republic of Korea’s sovereignty,” Bloomberg reported.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Rah Jong-yil, an ex-South Korean ambassador to Tokyo and London, said it’s possible that Xi said Korea was part of China “because it was overhwlemingly under Chinese influence historically and Mr. Trump bought that.
“It shows his shocking ignorance of the situation in northeast Asia,” he added.