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Celebrities Jolie, Salonga, and Chloe Kim Light Up the State Dinner for South Korea

by Joshua Brown
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President Joe Biden recently invited some famous people to a fancy black-tie dinner. This exclusive guest list included Angelina Jolie (an actor), Chip and Joanna Gaines (from HGTV) and Chloe Kim (an Olympic snowboarder). All these special guests were there to celebrate with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

Lea Salonga, one of the performers of the night, was feeling very nervous and excited when she arrived which felt like a dream to her. Kim, on the other hand, simply said that the food would be great. Angelina Jolie did not talk to reporters but her son Maddox said he liked Seoul because of its people. He also wore a vintage Chanel jacket and a cream dress for the occasion.

Some politicians also attended the event and many people were discussing politics. Senator Tammy Duckworth from Illinois discussed building roads, reducing debt, and working on the budget. Representative Judy Chu from California talked about women’s rights to have an abortion. Penny Pritzker, a former Commerce Secretary from Illinois who gave money to Democrats, was talking about a plan for the Democratic Convention which will happen in Chicago in 2024 – she promised it will be successful.

Senator Mazie Hirono from Hawaii wore a traditional hanbok gown at the event, proudly sharing her culture with the nearly 200 guests. She admitted that it was challenging to not trip over her dress! Arthur Blank- co-founder of Home Depot, author Min Jin Lee, and former Major League Baseball pitcher Chan Ho Park were also in attendance, in addition to Republican Senator Mitt Romney and three different governors (Delaware, New Jersey and Vermont).

On a lovely spring night, guests arrived at the White House by walking through the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden and then heading to an evening reception before dinner in the East Room. At the tables, you could see big decorations made of cherry tree branches with fresh flowers blooming. For dinner, some of the food served included crabcakes, beef ribs and banana splits.

While most people were walking into the garden, President Biden and his wife Jill welcomed Yoon and his wife Kim Keon Hee on a red carpet near the North Portico entrance. The president was seen smiling for the cameras while giving a thumbs up. Kim wore a cream jacket over her dress, which was also cream-colored. On the other hand, Jill Biden was wearing a mauve-colored gown created by Reem Acra.

After having dinner together, President Biden said how he believed that their visit made both nations become closer to each other.

Yoon showed his respect to President Biden’s Irish background with an old saying from Ireland: “A good friend is like a four-leaf clover, hard to find and lucky to have.” He then made a toast to their strong friendship.

At the table where Biden, Yoon and the First Ladies were sitting, there were other guests who joined them like Jolie and her son, Gaineses family, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and snowboarder Chloe Kim.

To plan the administration’s second state dinner, America’s First Lady recruited celebrity chef Edward Lee who is famous for cooking American food with a Korean spin. He explained that while his dishes were not traditional Korean cuisine, they would be filled with Korean flavors. This was demonstrated as the White House presented the menu this week.

For the starter, there was a crab cake dish served with a cold salad of cabbage, kohlrabi, fennel and cucumber that had a spicy vinaigrette dressing. For the main course, it was braised beef short rib with sweet sorghum-glazed carrots on butter bean grits. And to top it all off, a bowl of chilled yellow squash soup was served.

At dinner, guests were served a special kind of banana split called ‘deconstructed’ which had lemon bar ice cream, caramelized bananas, fresh berries and mint ginger snap cookie crumble with a special caramel sauce made with doenjang. After that, they went to the State Dining Room where they were entertained by Broadway stars Salonga, Norm Lewis and Jessica Vosk. Even though Norm is an experienced performer, he still feels nervous whenever he has to perform at big events like this one.

“He was feeling a bit nervous but said it was all for a good reason and he was very happy to be there. Then, he sang ”This is the Moment” from “Jekyll and Hyde”. Yoon joined in too, singing his favorite song called “American Pie” and everyone clapped really loudly for him. After that, Biden gave Yoon an amazing surprise – it was a guitar signed by Don McLean who wrote “American Pie”!

Senator Schumer wore a navy suit instead of a traditional tuxedo to the event and joked that it was as fancy as he could get. Chip Gaines didn’t give any decorating tips, but mentioned that his wife Joanna really likes a white interior and exterior look. Her mother also happens to be Korean.

The U.S. is showing a special honor to South Korea by having a fancy arrival ceremony and dinner for President Yoon at the South Lawn. This visit celebrates 70 years of partnering up between the two countries, which started after the Korean War ended. The partnership includes the U.S. promising to help defend South Korea from North Korea, and there are currently 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea.

Last year, President Biden sent an invitation to French President Emmanuel Macron, who then went to the White House for a fancy dinner with 300 people. They were all inside a big tent that was put up in the backyard at the White House.

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