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Handshakes and selfies followed after Yoon's Capitol speech

Handshakes and selfies followed after Yoon's Capitol speech

Posted April. 29, 2023 08:03,   

Updated April. 29, 2023 08:03


“BTS beat me to the White House. But I beat them to Capitol Hill.”

Laughter erupted and filled the House of Representatives Main Hall on the second floor of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Thursday (local time) when President Yoon Suk Yeol, donning a light purple tie and handkerchief, made this whimsical comment at a joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The first joint speech by a Korean president to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 12 years made headlines thanks to President Yoon's clearly-enunciated English speech. An acquaintance of President Yoon said, “You cannot expect people to change their English pronunciation overnight. However, President Yoon has a positive perception of British and American culture, and with his inquisitive nature, he has always been interested in speaking in English.” President Yoon has loved pop songs since his school days and even knows the song "American Pie" written by American singer-songwriter Don McLean by heart. It is uncommon for him to give others such advice as, "If you want to take on important work, don't neglect to study foreign languages."

President Yoon is reported to have spent considerable time preparing for the speech ahead of the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives. After outlining the direction and framework of the speech, he made sure the speech was written in “plain English” as much as possible. Kim Won-jip, a "Gen Z" staff for Yoon who accompanied his joint speech schedule like shadow, helped the president behind the scenes. President Yoon did not forget to review the speeches of former U.S. presidents, such as former Presidents Barack Obama and former President Ronald Reagan. And as he liked former President John F. Kennedy's speech the most, he quoted a part of Kennedy's inaugural address in his speech.

During his speech, President Yoon called Dayne Weber, the granddaughter of the late retired Col. William Weber, and asked her to stand up. Yoon also remarked, “I am also a huge fan of the movies ‘Top Gun,’ ‘Maverick,’ and ‘Mission: Impossible.’” More than 57 rounds of applause and cheers followed during the speech, including 26 standing ovations. Nearly ten minutes of handshakes, autograph requests, and selfies continued by U.S. lawmakers surrounding President Yoon as he was leaving the venue after his speech.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who watched President Yoon's speech on the spot as former Senate Speaker, said at the state luncheon that followed, "President Yoon's leadership made possible the growth of our two countries. In this era where dictatorship and aggression are prevalent, President Yoon's leadership is very significant." U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said, “Today’s speech is a historic step toward further strengthening the ROK-U.S. alliance.”

Kwan-Seok Jang jks@donga.com