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Boris Johnson, Britain’s top diplomat, flees live interview after being asked to name South Korean president

During a live interview on Britain's Sky News over the weekend, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was asked to name South Korea's president, who is embroiled in a political scandal.

Johnson, a controversial backer of the Brexit vote, demurred.

“We are not getting into a 'pub quiz' about leaders around the world,” Johnson said, before making a personal appeal to the journalist asking him the question, Dermot Murnaghan.

“I am going to, with great respect, invite you out to the pub, Dermot, so we can take these conversations further,” Johnson said. “I have a terrible feeling if I keep answering you, you will keep coming back with more.”

Then he removed the headset he had been using, waved his hand and walked away.

“Don't you want enlightenment? You might be meeting her,” Murnaghan said as Johnson was leaving, sporting a grin that suggested he was pleased by the exchange. The embattled South Korean president's name is Park Geun-hye.

Quizzing politicians about the names of foreign leaders has become something of a sport for the Sky News journalist, who hosts a show that often interviews British politicians. In September, he quizzed the top opposition politician who deals with foreign affairs, Emily Thornberry, on the name of the French foreign minister.

“Don't start pub-quizzing me, Dermot,” Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary for the Labour Party, responded. Thornberry admitted she didn't know the name, then suggested that she was being treated unfairly by Sky News and asked whether her government counterpart, Johnson, had ever been asked.

Murnaghan did, in fact, ask Johnson about the French foreign minister Sunday, and the polyglot Brexiteer responded accurately: “The French foreign minister is mon ami Jean-Marc Ayrault.”

Johnson's flustered response to the question about the South Korean leader suggests that he wasn't so sure about his answer in this instance.

A number of politicians have been caught out in the past year when asked about foreign affairs. By far the most notorious was when Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party's candidate in the U.S. presidential election, responded with “What is Aleppo?” when asked about the northern city that has been at the center of fighting in Syria.

Although Johnson's response may seem egregious, even the harshest critics would admit that the stresses of live television can make it hard to get the details right at all points. Murnaghan himself may know: Last year, while interviewing Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the Sky News host introduced him as Toomas Hendrik and then referred to him as “President Hendrik.”

Ilves immediately pulled out his earpiece and walked out of the interview. As he left, Ilves could be heard saying “tell him to shut up” and “get my name right.”

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