South Korea’s Yoon sings ‘American Pie’ at White House state dinner

April 29, 2023 - 5:02 PM
U.S. President Joe Biden reacts as South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol sings at an official State Dinner, during Yoon Suk Yeol's visit, at the White House in Washington, U.S. April 26, 2023. (Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein)

 It turns out South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol can sing.

At the end of a festive dinner at the White House on Wednesday, President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, President Yoon and his wife, Kim Keon Hee, moved from the East Room to the State Dining Room for the entertainment part of the evening, a string of professionally performed Broadway musical numbers.

After Broadway stars Norm Lewis, Lea Salonga and Jessica Vosk sang a handful of soaring pieces, including selections from “Les Miserables” and “Funny Girl,” Jill Biden announced a special encore: a serenade by the singers of the pop song “American Pie,” a Yoon favorite.

It didn’t end there. When the singers finished, President Biden and President Yoon took the stage and Biden invited Yoon, because of his love of the song, to give it a whirl himself.

Yoon did just that, taking a mic and belting out the first stanzas of the song, in English and in tune, while an astounded Biden and a delighted crowd, including actor Angelina Jolie, looked on.

“Something touched me deep inside, the day the music died,” he finished, sparking a standing ovation and loud applause from the audience and the Broadway singers, who were still on stage.

Biden told Yoon he had “no damn idea” he could sing, and then presented him with a guitar signed by Don McLean, who wrote the song.

—Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Heather Timmons and Gerry Doyle