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Yoon talks to royals, Japanese emperor, ahead of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral

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President Yoon Suk-yeol, left, and first lady Kim Keon-hee leave a hotel in London to attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II Monday morning. [YONHAP]
President Yoon Suk-yeol attended the state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey in London Monday to offer condolences on behalf of the Korean people.

He was one of many foreign leaders who flew in from across the globe to take part in the funeral service to see off Britain’s longest serving monarch, who died earlier this month at the age of 96 after reigning for 70 years.

On Sunday, Yoon and first lady Kim Keon-hee attended a reception for foreign dignitaries at Buckingham Palace hosted by King Charles III and expressed their condolences over the death of the queen.

“The queen will never be forgotten for her lifelong dedication to defending freedom and peace,” said Yoon to the king, according to Kim Eun-hye, senior secretary for press affairs, adding that the “Korean people also share in this sorrow.”

Yoon extended his congratulations to the new king for his accession to the throne.

King Charles expressed his gratitude to Yoon and the first lady for making the trip and introduced them to Queen Consort Camilla and other members of the royal family including Prince of Wales William.

Princess of Wales Kate Middleton said she has not visited Korea and would like to if an invitation is extended, according to Kim.

King Charles said that he last visited Korea in 1992 and would like another opportunity to visit, and Yoon replied, “We will welcome you at any time.”

At the reception, Yoon met other leaders included British Prime Minister Liz Truss, King Felipe VI of Spain and U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.

He told the U.S. presidential couple that he looks forward to seeing them at the UN General Assembly in New York later this week.

Yoon also met briefly with Japanese Emperor Naruhito, who was making his first overseas with Empress Masako since his ascension to throne in 2019.

Other former Korean leaders including President Lee Myung-bak met with the Japanese emperor during visits to Japan, although Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in did not.

The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II makes its way to Westminster Abbey for the state funeral in London Monday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]
Yoon arrived in London earlier Sunday, the first leg of a three-country trip which also takes him to the United States and Canada later this week.

Yoon was initially scheduled to lay a wreath at a memorial to honor some 80,000 British troops who fought alongside South Koreans in the 1950-53 Korean War in London and pay his respects at Westminster Hall, where the Queen had been lying in state since Wednesday.

However, he was unable to attend both events because of heavy traffic, according to the presidential office.

Instead, Yoon is expected to hold a ceremony to confer medals on British veterans of the Korean War on Monday.

Yoon was set to depart for New York later Monday to give his first speech at the UN General Assembly Tuesday. He is also expected to hold bilateral summits with Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

However, there were last minute back-and-forths between Seoul and Tokyo about whether talks between Yoon and Kishida will be a formal summit or a more casual “pull-aside” meeting.

President Yoon Suk-yeol, far right, and first lady Kim Keon-hee greet British officials after arriving at London Stansted Airport on Air Force One Sunday on the eve of the state funeral Queen Elizabeth II. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

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

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