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From Yoon Dong-ju to Blackpink: banquet at Buckingham reaffirms deep ties

Nov. 22, 2023 - 15:48 By Lee Jung-youn
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (second from right) and first lady Kim Keon Hee (right) pose for a photo with King Charles III (second from left) and Queen Camilla before attending a state banquet held at Buckingham Palace, Tuesday, local time. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon Hee, who are on a state visit to Britain to mark the 140th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, attended a state banquet hosted by King Charles III at Buckingham Palace, Tuesday.

The two leaders confirmed the strong relationship between South Korea and Britain, paying tribute to influential cultural figures and the history of each country.

After attending an official welcoming ceremony at Horse Guards Square, Yoon inspected the Guard of Honor and moved to Buckingham Palace, where the state banquet was held with King Charles and Queen Camilla.

At the beginning of his speech as host of the state dinner, King Charles praised South Korea’s achievements through its turbulent history, saying "Welcome to Britain" in Korean. He also quoted a verse from the poem, "The Wind Blows," by the poet Yoon Dong-ju, one of Korea's most beloved poets, who was active during the Japanese colonial era.

Through the verse, "While the wind keeps blowing, My feet stand upon a rock. While the river keeps flowing, My feet stand upon a hill," the king complimented Korea on firmly maintaining its national identity amid bewildering change.

King Charles also pointed out the cultural assets that Korea has shown in recent years, enumerating some of the famous artists of both countries: “Korea has matched Danny Boyle with Bong Joon-ho, James Bond with Squid Game, and the Beatles’ 'Let It Be' with BTS’ 'Dynamite.'” He paid tribute to the four members of K-pop band Blackpink, who also attended the banquet.

Yoon emphasized the strong relationship between the two countries, saying that about 81,000 British soldiers fought for Korea's freedom during the 1950-53 Korean War. "With the noble sacrifice of British soldiers, the Republic of Korea was able to grow into a politically free, economically prosperous and culturally enriched country."

Yoon went on to say that he was enthusiastic about the Beatles, Queen and Elton John in his school days, and paid tribute to Britain as a country that has set milestones in all fields, including industry, literature and science.

In offering a toast to the future of the two countries, Yoon quoted a line from Shakespeare's sonnet No. 104: "To me, fair friend, the United Kingdom, you never can be old.”

About 180 distinguished guests from both countries attended the state banquet. The government personnel including Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho, Foreign Minister Park Jin, Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, Industry Minister Bang Moon-kyu and National Security Adviser Cho Tae-yong accompanied Yoon. Several business leaders including Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong, LG Chairman Koo Kwang-mo and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin also attended the ceremony.

In addition to Blackpink members Rose, Jennie, Jisoo and Lisa, famous celebrities, athletes and influencers, such as football player Cho So-hyun from Birmingham City Women and Oliver Kendal who operates the Korean Englishman YouTube channel, were also present.

On the British side, royal family members and parliamentary figures including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy, Prince William of Wales, Princess Catherine of Wales, Princess Royal Anne and Foreign Secretary David Cameron attended the event.

For the menu, tartlets with poached eggs and spinach puree, pheasant with celeriac croquettes and Calvados sauce, salad and mango ice cream were served to the guests on gold plates produced in 1761 for the coronation of King George III, according to Yoon's office. The plates were decorated with gold and silver seashells and bead patterns on the edges, with the royal crest emblazoned at the top. Desserts were served on blue-green plates that were produced during the reign of Queen Victoria in 1877.

The flowers that decorated the banquet hall were brought directly from Windsor, and were donated to charity after the banquet. During the dinner, the Duchess of Wessex's string orchestra played music, and traditional Scottish bagpipes were played at the end.