On Tuesday night, King Charles brought together a group of senior royals, including Queen Camilla, Prince William, and Kate Middleton to Buckingham Palace for the second state banquet of his reign. The spectacle aimed to celebrate a state visit by South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol and First Lady Kim Keon-hee and emphasize the importance of the economic relationship between the two nations. But in a speech that made plenty of references to the aspects of Korean pop culture that have become global phenomena, the king illustrated his deep respect and enthusiasm for Korea’s contributions to British life.
“Korea has matched Danny Boyle with Bong Joon-ho, James Bond with Squid Game, and the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ with BTS’s ‘Dynamite,’” he said. “Our cultures share a remarkable ability to captivate imaginations across the world, transforming a so-called soft power into a shared superpower. I fear, though, that I am unlikely ever to follow in King Sejong’s footsteps and create a whole new alphabet!”
Along with politicians and dignitaries from both countries, the banquet was attended by Birmingham City soccer star Cho So-hyun and the four members of K-pop group BLACKPINK, Jennie Kim, Kim Ji-soo, Lisa Manobal and Rosé Park In his speech, the king praised the pop stars for their climate change activism, though he admitted that their involvement in his key cause hasn’t given him the swagger of Seoul’s famous Gangnam neighborhood. “I can only admire how they can prioritize these vital issues, as well as being global superstars,” Charles said. “Sadly, when I was in Seoul all those years ago, I am not sure I developed much of what might be called the Gangnam Style!”
The state visit was planned to coincide with the signing of the Downing Street Accords, a free trade agreement that will streamline trade between the two countries and modernize digital trade rules and customs procedures, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said is a fulfillment of his “promise to grow the economy and support highly skilled jobs.” In the years since the UK left the European Union, the government has shifted its focus to finding trade partners and economic opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region, and the developments with South Korea are an early success in that effort. To emphasize the treaty’s importance, the royal family came out in full force to show South Korea’s delegation a good time.
Early in the day, William and Kate traveled to meet Yoon and Kim at their hotel before traveling to a formal ceremony with the king and queen at Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall, which featured a 41-gun salute. After the three couples took part in a carriage procession, they had a private lunch at Buckingham Palace and viewed a selection of objects from the Royal Collection Trust relating to Korea.
In reference to the South Korean flag, Kate wore a striking red bespoke wool cape by Catherine Walker, designed to match the red dress she first debuted at her Christmas carol concert back in 2021. She completed the look with a red hat by Jane Taylor, and sapphire and diamond drop earrings (originally belonging to Princess Diana) that referenced the flag’s blue detailing.
The Buckingham Palace banquet was an opportunity for the senior royals to break out their finery, and for the women, this meant tiaras. The surprise of the night was Kate’s choice of the Strathmore Rose tiara, which once belonged to the Queen Mother and hasn’t been seen in public since the 1930s. Queen Camilla made her debut in the Burmese Ruby tiara, which Garrard designed for Queen Elizabeth II in 1973, which she paired with a red gown designed by Fiona Clare. Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, wore her usual aquamarine tiara, while Princess Anne wore a diamond festoon tiara.