Yoon arrives in Britain for state visit

November 20, 2023

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in Britain on Monday for a state visit marking the 140th anniversary of bilateral relations, the first leg of a two-nation trip that will later take him to France for a final diplomatic campaign to bring the 2030 World Expo to Busan.

The four-day state visit to London comes at the invitation of King Charles III. The presidential office has said Yoon and first lady Kim Keon Hee are Britain’s first state guests since the King’s coronation in May, showing the special importance London places on its relationship with Seoul.

“The state visit to Britain is aimed at strengthening strategic cooperation with a key friendly nation,” Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo said during an earlier press briefing, noting that South Korea and Britain share the core values of freedom, human rights and the rule of law.

Highlights of the visit will take place Tuesday.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (L) and first lady Kim Keon Hee arrive at Stansted Airport, near London, on Nov. 20, 2023. (Yonhap)
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (L) and first lady Kim Keon Hee arrive at Stansted Airport, near London, on Nov. 20, 2023. (Yonhap)

Yoon and the first lady will be welcomed in a royal ceremony that will begin with Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, arriving at their hotel to accompany them to Horse Guards Parade for the official welcoming ceremony.

During the ceremony, a 41-gun salute will be fired in the highest mark of respect, after which Yoon will inspect the Guard of Honor.

Yoon and King Charles will then travel in a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace to attend a welcome luncheon attended by some 50 people.

The president will later deliver a speech, likely in English, before the British parliament on the beginnings of the South Korea-Britain relationship and the way forward.

A state dinner at Buckingham Palace will wrap up the day, with the attendance of some 180 people.

The following day’s schedule will include a summit between Yoon and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on ways to strengthen strategic cooperation in a wide range of areas, including digital technology, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, nuclear power, the defense industry, semiconductors and space.

The two countries will adopt a South Korea-Britain Accord on the occasion of the summit to outline the direction of future bilateral cooperation.

Yoon also plans to discuss ways to improve the South Korea-Britain free trade agreement to facilitate South Korean businesses’ entry into the British market following its exit from the European Union.

A South Korean business delegation is accompanying Yoon on the trip.

Before leaving Britain on Thursday, Yoon will visit the Churchill War Rooms museum and exchange farewell greetings with King Charles at Buckingham Palace.

He will then head to Paris to meet with delegates from member states of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the body in charge of overseeing the World Expo, to make a final pitch for South Korea’s bid to host the 2030 edition in its southeastern city of Busan.

The meetings will come only days before the BIE delegates vote to choose the host city on Nov. 28, with South Korea in a three-way race against Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Rome, Italy.

Yoon and the first lady will depart France on Saturday and return home early Sunday.