President Obama and the first lady are hosting a State Dinner tonight in honor of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and first lady Kim Yoon-ok, replete with Korean influences and distinct American flair.
The dinner marks the final event in a rainy day of diplomatic events, including an Oval Office meeting, a joint press conference, and President Lee’s address to Congress.
Reflecting on the relationship between the two countries in his opening toast, Obama said their alliance reflects the deep affection, the bonds of the heart that cannot be broken and that grow stronger with time.”
The evening began with a bang, literally. The thunder was deafening. Moments after the torrential downpour subsided, President Obama and the First Lady, wearing a stunning one-shoulder purple evening gown by Korean-American designer Doo-Ri Chung, emerged from the South Portico of the White House to greet President Lee and First Lady Kim, who wore a traditional Korean hanbok.
The East Room of the White House has been transformed into a “celebration of an early Fall Harvest,” with centerpieces of green and red apples, cut-outs of fall leaves projected on the ceiling in yellow and red hues, and hibiscus flowers, the national flower of Korea, prominently featured.
The menu, which highlights vegetables from first Mrs. Obama’s garden, includes butternut squash bisque, a salad of daikon sheets and masago rice pearl crispies, a nod to Korean traditions, and Texas Wagyu beef for the main event. For dessert, guests will be treated to a classic chocolate cake layered with Korean and American pears.
The after-dinner entertainment will feature performances by the Ahn Trio and selections by Janelle Monáe.
The three American sisters that make up the trio were born in Seoul, Korea, and have “earned a distinguished reputation for embracing 21st century classical music with their unique style and innovative collaborations,” according to the White House.
Janelle Monáe is a singer-songwriter from Kansas City, Kan., whose “innovative style melds a redefined pop sensibility with an extraordinary mash-up of soul, funk and rock n’ roll.”
Today marks the sixth Korean state visit to the U.S.