During his coronavirus task force briefing Monday evening, President Trump declared that he knows “South Korea better than anybody,” before overestimating the population of Seoul, South Korea, by about 28 million residents.
Trump delivered the false fact while answering a question from PBS White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who asked the president: “You’ve said several times that the United States has ramped up testing. But the United States is still not testing per capita as many people as other countries like South Korea. Why is that and when do you think that that number will be on par with other countries?”
Trump replied, “It’s very much on par.”
“I know South Korea better than anybody. It’s a very tight — do you know how many people are in Seoul?” he asked. “Do you know how big the city of Seoul is?”
“Thirty-eight million people,” Trump incorrectly stated, “That’s bigger than anything we have. Thirty-eight million people, all tightly wound together.”
Here's Trump lecturing Yamiche that "38 million people" live in Seoul, South Korea. The actual population of Seoul is 9.8 million. pic.twitter.com/Lu1jY3sJ9J
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 30, 2020
That’s incorrect. Seoul has a population of nearly 10 million, according to the city government’s English language website. The entire population of South Korea itself is roughly 51.5 million.
While it’s unclear where the 38 million figure came from, some Twitter sleuths speculated that he might have mixed-up Seoul’s population with its elevation.
Trump just said Seoul has "38 million people" in it. That's such an oddly wrong and yet specific number, I did a google search for Seoul. pic.twitter.com/iuK0g6iBSo
— Adam Bates (@AdamTaylorBates) March 30, 2020
“So rather than asking a question like that, you should congratulate the people that have done this testing,” Trump told Alcindor, “because we inherited this administration, inherited a broken system, a system that was obsolete. A system that didn’t work. It was okay for a tiny, small group of people but once you got beyond that, it didn’t work.”
He again told her, “You should be saying congratulations instead of asking a really snarky question because I know exactly what you mean by that. You should be saying congratulations to the men and women who have done this job, who have inherited a broken testing system and who have made it great. And if you don’t say it, I’ll say it. I want to congratulate all of the people. You have done a fantastic job.”
As of Saturday, the U.S. has performed 894,000 tests, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The United States still lags behind other countries like South Korea when it comes to testing on a per capita basis.
According to The Washington Post, as of March 28, the United States had performed 2,250 tests per million — two-thirds of what South Korea did three weeks prior.