Obamas host state dinner for South Korea President Lee Myung-bak (PHOTOS)

(L-R) Republic of Korea first lady Kim Yoon-ok, U.S. first lady Michele Obama, Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama pose for photographs on the North Portico of the White House before attending the state dinner on Oct. 13, 2011.
Alex Wong

When you have something to celebrate, what better way to throw down than with an official state dinner?

The state dinner for South Korea President Lee Myung-bak and First Lady Kim Yoon-ok on Oct. 13 was certainly well-timed, with Congress having approved a much-delayed free trade agreement between the U.S and South Korea the day before.

“A new chapter in our relationship has opened. Our relationship has become stronger,” Lee said in an address to a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday afternoon, ABC News reports. “We invest in you and you invest in us because we are interdependent. When we trade together, we grow together. When we build together, we rise together. And when we work together, we win together.”

Thursday’s dinner was only the fifth state dinner the Obamas have hosted at the White House, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, though they’ve been on a bit of an entertaining kick this year. The Obamas wined and dined India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2009, followed by Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón in 2010, China’s President Hu Jintao in January and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in June.

State dinners are serious business, Mary Mel French, who was President Bill Clinton’s chief of protocol, told the Washington Post. “The dinner showcases America,” she said. “Not only from the diplomatic viewpoint, but artists and writers and actors and scholars and other people in America that all have a part in the country.”

Among the 200 guests invited to mingle with South Korea’s president, according to The Associated Press: Tennis star Billie Jean King, Ford CEO Alan Mullaly, trauma surgeon Peter Rhee, who helped treat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in January, and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.

Thursday night’s menu, billed by the White House as a “celebration of a fall harvest,” aimed for a harmonious melding of Asian and American flavors. The feast included Texas Wagyu beef, orange-ginger fondue, sauteed kale and roasted kabocha squash. Both Korean and American pears were featured in the dessert, the Washington Post reports.

The evening’s entertainment also mixed East and West, the Washington Post reports, with the Korean-American Aghn trio and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Janelle Monae performing.

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