President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden capped South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s official state visit with a glamorous state dinner at the White House Wednesday night to celebrate the two nations’ 70-year alliance.
“This visit is about reaffirming all that unites our two nations. It’s about a commitment to bear one another’s concerns and listen to each other’s dreams. It allows us to overcome every difficulty with great determination. That allows us to move further and faster in space, cyber, technology and all areas that matter most to our future,” Biden said in remarks at the beginning of the dinner.
Biden wrapped his short speech with a toast: “To our partnership, to our people, to possibilities, and to the of the Republic of Korea and the United States will create together. May we do it together for another 170 years.”
But Biden wasn’t the only leader who took the mic. Following a round of musical performances, his South Korean counterpart joined him on stage to give his own – a karaoke rendition of Don McLean’s “American Pie” – which received a standing ovation from the crowd.
The US president and the first lady, who wore a mauve, long sheath evening gown by Reem Acra, had welcomed guests to a White House adorned with a photo-ready hand-painted silk screen with Korean and American symbolism – a magpie, a tiger and a hibiscus for South Korea, a bald eagle, bison, and roses for the US.
Angelina Jolie and her son Maddox Jolie-Pitt, home design stars Chip and Joanna Gaines (who did not have any tips for the White House), Notre Dame football coach Marcus Freeman, and Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Chloe Kim were some of the noteworthy guests attending Wednesday’s fete.
Also in attendance was Samantha Cohen, who was previously misidentified as the daughter of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen.
The elaborate dinner is the result of weeks of careful diplomatic preparations, with each detail meticulously planned by a team of White House chefs, social staff, and protocol experts. Ties between the countries were front and center in the décor and on the menu, with guests dining under towering cherry blossom branches on food prepared by Korean American celebrity chef Edward Lee. The menu included crab cakes with a gochujang vinaigrette, braised beef short ribs, and a deconstructed banana split with lemon bar ice cream and a doenjang caramel.
Top Biden officials arrived decked out in their formal wear for the occasion, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his wife, cabinet secretary Evan Ryan; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, who was followed closely by what appeared to be the “nuclear football”; US Trade Representative Katherine Tai; US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield; Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines; and press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who offered a twirl in her gown. Other key Biden advisers Bruce Reed, Steve Ricchetti, Jen O’Malley Dillon, and Liz Sherwood-Randall were also in attendance.
Only one GOP official was spotted at the dinner: Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who told reporters he would “absolutely” support House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s debt limit bill and that it is “time for the White House to negotiate.” He didn’t answer a question on whether he’d bring it up Wednesday night.
Other state and local officials were on hand, including Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, plus Democratic lawmakers including Reps. Ami Bera, Judy Chu, and Ted Lieu and Sen. Mazie Hirono in a traditional hanbok dress.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who is a co-chair of Biden’s reelection campaign, told reporters she was “very honored” to serve in that capacity and found out when the president personally called her “earlier in the week and asked.”
There were also key family members in attendance, including Biden’s brother Frank Biden, second gentleman Doug Emhoff’s brother Andrew Emhoff, and Vice President Kamala Harris’ niece Meena Harris.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrived to the black-tie event in a suit. “This is as tux-y as I get,” he said, shrugging.
CORRECTION: This report has been updated to correctly identify Samantha Cohen, a guest at the state dinner.