• Associated Press

King Charles Welcomes South Korea’s President with State Banquet, Mingles with K-pop Band Blackpink

Yui Mok/Pool Photo via AP
From left, Britain’s Queen Camilla, King Charles III, President of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife Kim Keon Hee ahead of the State Banquet, for the state visit to the UK by President of South Korea, at Buckingham Palace, London, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023.

LONDON (AP) — King Charles III hosted South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife at a glittering banquet at Buckingham Palace Tuesday, as Britain rolled out the red carpet for a formal state visit aimed at strengthening trade and defense ties between the two countries.

The U.K. government hopes the Korean leader’s three-day visit will help cement an ” Indo-Pacific tilt ” in its foreign and trade policy.

The king and Queen Camilla hosted Yoon and first lady Kim Keon Hee at a sumptuous white tie and tiara banquet at Buckingham Palace, where Charles paid tribute to South Korea’s political and economic advances and celebrated its culture. The monarch even singled out for praise the K-pop girl group Blackpink, whose members were among more than 170 guests in the grand ballroom.

“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,” Charles said in his banquet speech. “I can only admire how they can prioritize 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!” he joked, referring to the global hit song by Korean rapper Psy.

Camilla donned the late Queen Elizabeth II ‘s ruby and diamond Burmese tiara and a red gown for the occasion, while Kate, the Princess of Wales, chose a white gown paired with what’s known as the Strathmore Rose tiara. The headpiece had belonged to Elizabeth’s mother, known as the Queen Mother.

Earlier Tuesday Charles and Camilla welcomed Yoon and his wife at Horse Guards Parade, a military parade ground in central London. Heir to the throne Prince William and government ministers also attended the welcome ceremony, where the king and president inspected rows of soldiers from the Scots Guards in gray tunics and bearskin hats.

The visiting couple traveled by horse-drawn coach down an avenue lined with British and Korean flags to Buckingham Palace.

Yoon also is scheduled to hold talks Wednesday with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak focused on trade, technology and defense. A defense agreement will see the two countries’ navies work together to curb smuggling and to enforce U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions.

U.K. and Korean officials also will officially launch talks on an “upgraded” free trade agreement to replace their current deal, which largely replicates the arrangements the U.K. had before it left the European Union.

Britain has launched trade talks with several countries since leaving the EU in 2020, though it has finalized deals only with Australia and New Zealand. The U.K. also has joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, an Asia-Pacific trade bloc that includes Japan and 10 other nations.

Sunak and Yoon are expected to sign an agreement covering cooperation in defense and technology, including artificial intelligence. Britain hosted the first international AI Safety Summit this month, and South Korea intends to hold a follow-up event next year.

Britain also plans to invest in South Korean semiconductor manufacturing as part of international efforts to diversify the supply of the key computer components. Many of the advanced chips are produced in Taiwan, and the coronavirus pandemic and an increasingly assertive China have heightened concerns about future supply.

Sunak said agreements made during Yoon’s visit would “drive investment, boost trade and build a friendship that not only supports global stability, but protects our interests and lasts the test of time.”