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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Yoon, Biden celebrate alliance in poetry and song at state dinner

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WASHINGTON — In a star-studded affair, Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden celebrated the 70th anniversary of the bilateral alliance in a state dinner at the White House Wednesday.

The two leaders were joined by first ladies Kim Keon-hee and Jill Biden in a black-tie event attended by some 200 Korean and American leaders in politics, business, academia, sports and entertainment who “represent the past, present and future of the Korea-U.S. alliance,” according to the presidential office in a statement.  

Notable attendees included actor Angelina Jolie and her 21-year-old son, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, a student at Korea’s Yonsei University, Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Chloe Kim and former Major League Baseball pitcher Park Chan-ho.  

Korean business leaders also took part in the banquet, including Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Chairman Chey Tae-won, Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Euisun Chung, LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin.
 
Top Biden administration officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, as wells as members of the U.S. Congress and veterans of the 1950-53 Korean War also attended.  
 
The Biden couple welcomed Yoon and Kim to the White House after the two presidents concluded bilateral talks earlier in the day agreeing to strengthen security and economic cooperation.
 
Kim was in a long white gown with white gloves, while Jill Biden wore a mauve evening gown.  
 
The first couples took commemorative photos then headed into the East Room where the banquet was held.  

“Behavior that’s admired is the path to power among people everywhere,” Yoon said, quoting Irish poet Seamus Heaney, a favorite of the U.S. president.  
 
Yoon later quoted an Irish saying, “A good friend is like a four-leaf clover — hard to find and lucky to have,” highlighting the two countries’ “ironclad alliance.”
 
“I’ve never been more optimistic about our nations, what we can achieve together, if we continue to work together as allies and as friends,” Biden said at the beginning of the banquet.  
 
“To our partnership, to our people, to possibilities and to the future of the Republic of Korea and the United States that we’ll create together,” Biden said, toasting to Yoon. “May we do it together for another 170 years.”

The dinner lasted for about 3 hours and 30 minutes, as guests enjoyed dishes with a nod to Korean culinary delights.  
 
The U.S. first lady worked with Korean American chef Edward Lee and White House chefs to develop the menu for the dinner, which included Maryland crab cake with a gochujang vinaigrette and braised beef short ribs. She also had a hand in the decorations for the event.  
 
Dessert included banana split with lemon bar ice cream and mint ginger snap cookie crumble with doenjang (fermented soybean paste) caramel.  
 
Broadway stars Norm Lewis, Jessica Vosk and Lea Salonga performed at the event numbers from hit musicals.  
 
But in the highlight of the evening, Yoon took the mic to sing ″American Pie″ by Don Mclean, one of his favorite songs, earning him a standing ovation including a hearty cheer from Joe Biden.  
 
Biden presented Yoon with an acoustic guitar signed by McLean.
 
A video of Yoon singing soon went viral on social media.  
 
This is the second state dinner hosted by the Bidens since French President Emmanuel Macron last December.  
 
The presidential office in a statement Thursday said the state dinner was “attended by people from all walks of life who are working at the forefront of developing the Korea-U.S. alliance, reflecting on the achievements of the alliance over the past 70 years and commemorating the new start of the Korea-U.S. alliance moving forward into the future.”  

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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