South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, renowned for his versatile approach to diplomacy, will journey to the UK come November to attend a state visit, accepting an open invitation from King Charles III. The Korean leader and his lady wife, Kim Keon Hee, will be warmly received at Buckingham Palace by King Charles III and Queen Camilla as esteemed guests.
This visit mirrors the second of such kind since the King ascended the throne, reliving the footprints left behind by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during his visit last year. The regal couple recently completed their three-day visitation to the heart of France, still aglow with the experiences gathered.
Yoon Suk-yeol, aged 62, made headlines during his April visit to the United States when he belted out a verse from the iconic song ‘American Pie,’ by Don McLean, at a White House dinner upon the playful request of President Joe Biden. His delivery beguiled the audience, earning him captivating applause, with President Biden gifting him a guitar signed by McLean, a memento of that remarkable evening.
More so, his visit bore diplomatic fruits as he notched a landmark agreement with the US aimed at mitigating the nuclear threats from North Korea. While specifics of his upcoming UK visit remain under wraps, expectations are that it would adhere to tradition: with a ceremonious welcome, a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace, and a state banquet on the first night accommodating nearly 150 guests.
As is customary, the King would deliver a keynote address and propose a toast to the visiting head of state, awaiting his response and a reciprocal toast to the monarch. The King and the South Korean president are not strangers, having previously met at a reception for heads of state and official overseas guests on the eve of Elizabeth II’s funeral.
Admittedly, Mr. Yoon’s absence from a visitation to late Queen’s in-state coffin attracted criticism from South Korea’s political elite, the blame being placed on burdensome traffic. Consoling arms were extended by the King to the Korean people following the devastating Itaewon Halloween crowd calamity in 2022, where a staggering 150 lives were lost in Seoul’s party district.
Reflecting on past ties, King Charles, then Prince of Wales, was a prime guest at a state banquet hosted by the late queen for then-South Korean leader Roh Moo-hyun in 2004. The King also embarked on a trip to South Korea in November 1992 with his then-wife, Diana, Princess of Wales.
State visits serve as more than ornate occasions, they are a diplomatic tool utilized by governments to champion their national cause. Guests to the UK typically meet the British prime minister, government ministers, and leaders of principal political parties. Depending on scheduled activities, they may attend a subsequent banquet hosted by the Lord Mayor and City of London Corporation, facilitating interactions with leaders of commerce and industry.
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