King Charles meets K-pop stars Blackpink and praises South Korean culture during state banquet

King welcomes South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol on the first day of his state visit

Tony Jones
Wednesday 22 November 2023 04:56
King Charles and President of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol inspect royal guards in London

The King and Queen rubbed shoulders with K-pop royalty as they staged a banquet in honour of South Korea’s visiting president Yoon Suk-yeol.

Charles praised the environmental credentials of girl group Blackpink and highlighted South Korea’s creativity and culture, from Gangnam Style, celebrated in the global hit by Korean rapper Psy, to the popular Netflix series Squid Game.

In his banquet speech, the King said “Koreans have created a miracle” in their journey from “wartime devastation” to a thriving country where the “industrial efficiency” he witnessed during a visit in 1992 had become the “epitome” of technological innovation.

He added: “Through their own sweat and toil, and under the shadow of tyranny and the ever present threat of aggression, over seven decades Koreans have built a bastion of democracy, human rights and freedom.

“In a world where these values are challenged, sadly, as rarely before in our lifetimes, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom stand shoulder to shoulder in defence of all that we hold dear.”

Among more than 170 guests were leading figures from British and Korean life, from prime minister Rishi Sunak and wife Akshata Murty to Blackpink, and members of the royal family like the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Princess Royal.

Earlier Kate wore a striking red cape and coat by Catherine Walker, and a matching hat by Jane Taylor, when the King and Queen hosted a ceremonial welcome for the president and his wife Kim Keon Hee in London’s Whitehall at the start of their three-day state visit.

At a private lunch hosted by the King, there was an apparent ruffling of feathers among the South Koreans when news broke of a North Korean rocket launch as Pyongyang made another attempt to place a military spy satellite into orbit.

Listening to the King’s banquet address were singers Jennie Kim, Jisoo Kim, Lisa Manobal and Rose Park from Blackpink, South Korea’s biggest girl group who became the first Korean band to headline a major UK festival during the summer.

Charles also paid tribute to the Koreans’ interest in protecting the environment and singled out the K-pop group for praise.

Sadly, when I was in Seoul all those years ago, I am not sure I developed much of what might be called the Gangnam Style!

The King

He told the guests: “I applaud Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa and Rose, better known collectively as Blackpink, for their role in bringing the message of environmental sustainability to a global audience as ambassadors for the UK’s presidency of Cop26, and later as advocates for the UN sustainable development goals.

“I can only admire how they can prioritise these vital issues, as well as being global superstars. Sadly, when I was in Seoul all those years ago, I am not sure I developed much of what might be called the Gangnam Style!”

During the white-tie banquet the guests dined on a menu of warm tartlet of soft poached egg and spinach puree, breast of Windsor pheasant with croquette of celeriac and calvados sauce and salad, with a mango ice cream bombe for dessert.

Kate and Camilla stepped out in glittering royal tiaras they had never been seen in before.

The princess chose the Queen Mother’s delicate Strathmore Rose tiara, while the Queen opted for the late Queen Elizabeth II’s ruby and diamond Burmese tiara.

In his speech Mr Yoon echoed the sentiment of the King, praising the close ties between the UK and South Korea, saying: “When I was young, my friends and I were all fans of The Beatles, Queen, and Elton John. Harry Potter books are adored by many Koreans.

“Most importantly, the United Kingdom is the architect of modern liberal democracy. Most democracies are deeply influenced by British parliamentary democracy. Korea is no exception.

“On the basis of our shared universal values of freedom, human rights and the rule of law, the Republic of Korea will continue to steadfastly stand together with the United Kingdom as we work together for freedom, peace and prosperity around the world.”

Alongside the pomp and pageantry, the UK and South Korea are to launch talks on a new trade deal and sign a diplomatic accord as part of Mr Yoon’s three-day state visit.

Business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch will begin negotiations with her Korean counterpart Bang Moon Kyu at the UK-Korea Business Forum at Mansion House on Wednesday.

They will also announce £21bn of investments committed by Korean businesses in green energy and infrastructure projects across the UK.

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