News & Politics

Everything You Missed at Last Night’s White House State Dinner

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol broke out in an a cappella version of "American Pie."

From left to right: First Lady Kim Keon Hee, President Yoon Suk Yeol, President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden. Photograph from @POTUS.

Wednesday night, President Biden and the First Lady hosted their second state dinner at the White House, this time honoring South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and First Lady Kim Keon Hee. The event, which celebrated the 70th anniversary of the two nations’ alliance, was star-studded and lighthearted. At one point, the South Korean President broke into an a cappella version of one of his favorite songs, Don McLean’s “American Pie.” Afterwards, President Biden gifted him a guitar signed by the singer/songwriter. 

Here’s what else you missed:

The Guests


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Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austen were on the guest list as expected. But there were a few notable surprises: Angelina Jolie arrived with her son, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, who attends Yonsei University in Seoul. Jolie sat at the head table with two-time Olympic gold medalist and snowboarder Chloe Kim and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, according to the New York Times. Joanna Gaines, the Korean-American home design star and TV personality, came with husband Chip. NBC4 evening anchor Eun Yang was there, and Meena Harris, the VP’s niece, showed up, too. 


The Menu

Succotash Prime chef Edward Lee worked with White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford to craft the menu of American classics with Korean twists. Guests dined on Maryland crab cakes topped with  gochujang vinaigrette; yellow-squash soup with cured strawberries; braised beef short ribs with sorghum-glazed carrots; and a banana split made with lemon-bar ice cream, berries, ginger-snap crumbles, and doenjang caramel. 


The Decor

Tables were set with gold-rimmed George W. Bush state service china, and arrayed with azaleas, peonies, orchids, and tall cherry-blossom branches.


The Entertainment

Besides the South Korean President, musical theater performers Jessica Vosk (Wicked) and Norm Lewis (Phantom of the Opera), and Tony Award winner Lea Salonga also belted out “American Pie.”


More Photos

Chloe Kim at the White House last night. Photograph from @chloekim Instagram story.
Maryland crab cakes served with a gochujang sauce. Photograph from @chloekim Instagram story.
Maryland crab cakes served with a gochujang sauce. Photograph from @chloekim Instagram story.
The East Room was decorated with cherry blossoms. Photograph from @eunyangdc Instagram story.
The table setting and menu at last night’s state dinner. Photograph from @eunyangdc Instagram story.

Editorial Fellow

Keely recently graduated with her master’s in journalism from American University and has reported on local DC, national politics, and business. She has previously written for The Capitol Forum.