Seoul food for Trump as Moon serves up US steak

SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in sought to appeal to Donald Trump’s personal preferences last Saturday with a United States (US) steak dinner and a guest list including a star woman golfer.

The US President is known for his love of the sport and his simple culinary tastes – he likes his meat well-done.

In the past he has bonded with Shinzo Abe, the conservative Prime Minister of South Korea’s neighbour Japan – who Trump has regularly described as his friend – over burgers and several rounds on the course.

The relationship between Trump and Moon – also the leader of a country in a security alliance with the US, but a somewhat reserved former human rights lawyer – is nothing like as close.

But as Trump arrived in Seoul, the South’s presidential Blue House appeared to have crafted a dinner to appeal to the guest of honour’s particular tastes.

President Donald Trump talks with guests including members of the K-pop band EXO during a visit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the tea house on the grounds of the Blue House. – AP
US Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (R) watches as his wife and Advisor to the US President Ivanka Trump (L) holds copies of K-pop band EXO’s album Love Shot. – AFP

The main dish was a sirloin steak made of US beef, accompanied by bulgogi sauce, pickled garlic leaves and other side dishes.

And as well as the 12 cold Korean starters on the official menu – among them steamed sea urchin with tofu, and pan-fried mung beans – mini-hamburgers were served, Blue House officials said.

Serving western-style food along with Korean dishes symbolised the “collaboration and harmony” between the South and the US, Seoul’s presidential office said.

When Trump last visited in 2017, the Blue House prepared a menu infused with “local, traditional flavour” and featuring a beef rib dish accompanied by a gravy using a 360-year-old soy sauce.

This time the guests at the meal – eaten in a traditional-style building in the grounds of the presidential complex in Seoul – included retired star golfer Pak Se-ri, who has five majors to her name.

Trump spoke at length with her, saying at one point, “She’s gonna be my partner.”

South Korea dominates the women’s game globally – and Trump highlighted the success of the country’s players when he spoke to its Parliament two years ago. Sparkling water was provided as Trump does not drink, the Blue House said, and a separate Kosher meal was provided for his daughter and advisor Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.

Also among the guests were members of K-pop band EXO – Ivanka’s children are known to be fans – who handed the President and his daughter signed albums.

Trump is known to enjoy fast food. But Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, said that had the meal been a more formal occasion such as a full state banquet, serving burgers as the main dish would be “improper in any diplomatic setting”.