April 28, 2023
SEOUL – In the state dinner hosted by US President Joe Biden and the first lady Jill Biden on Wednesday evening, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol did not just sit back and enjoy the performance offered by Broadway stars.
Yoon took the spotlight to sing “American Pie” — one of his favorite songs — in front of some 200 government officials, business leaders and sports, arts and entertainment stars who were invited to the White House.
Three Broadway performers — Norm Lewis of “Phantom of the Opera,” Jessica Vosk, known for her portrayal of Elphaba in “Wicked,” and Lea Salonga, the voice behind Disney princesses Jasmine and Mulan — entertained the A-list guests with a collection of Broadway songs that included “This is the Moment” from the musical “Jekyll and Hyde.”
When they sang “American Pie” in an unannounced encore, Jill Biden pushed Yoon onto the stage, where Biden urged Yoon to sing the song, according to news reports.
And sing he did.
Yoon’s singing elicited boisterous cheers and applause, as shown in a video circulating online. At the end of his performance, Biden surprised Yoon by presenting him with a guitar autographed by Don McLean, the composer of “American Pie.”
The state dinner began as the Bidens greeted Yoon and his wife Kim Keon Hee on the red carpet at the steps of the North Portico of the White House. As they entered the building, an orchestra performed Miryang Arirang, a South Korean folk song.
Guests seated at the head table with the presidents and first ladies included actor Angelina Jolie and her son Maddox Jolie-Pitt, home improvement duo Chip and Joanna Gaines, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Korean American Olympian Chloe Kim.
“Pachinko” author Min Jin Lee and former Major League Baseball pitcher Park Chan-ho and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah also attended the state dinner, as did the governors of Delaware, New Jersey and Vermont. Among Korean business leaders at the state dinner were SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun, LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin.
For the Biden administration’s second-ever state dinner, the first lady recruited Korean American chef Edward Lee for a Korean-inspired menu. On the menu were crab cakes, beef ribs and banana splits.