The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is a symbol of the strong friendship between Singapore and South Korea, President Halimah Yacob said yesterday, noting that Singapore took part in its first Winter Games with some help from South Korea.
Speed skater Cheyenne Goh, 19, who competed in the Games in February, was coached by South Korea's four-time Olympic gold medallist Chun Lee-kyung, Singapore's national coach. "It was a testament to the strong people-to-people ties that Singapore's first Winter Olympian is coached by a Korean," Madam Halimah said in a speech at a state banquet for South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
"I should also mention that K-pop and Korean dramas are very popular in Singapore, across all ages and races… Many Singaporeans even learn the Korean language so that they can watch Korean dramas," Madam Halimah added, to laughter.
Ms Goh and Ms Chun were both present at the banquet at the Istana, which featured Singaporean fare such as beef rendang and rojak, and a live band playing a medley of tunes including the well-known Doraji Taryeong Korean folk song.
The dinner capped a busy day for Mr Moon, who received an official welcome at the Istana and called on Madam Halimah in the morning.
Mr Moon was hosted to lunch by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Botanic Gardens, where he had an orchid named after him and his wife, Madam Kim Jung-sook.
At the banquet, where a specimen of the purple flower was on display, Mr Moon said: "The strength of both Singapore and Korea is in their people. We were never complacent.
"We were not hindered by the geopolitical circumstance of being surrounded by big powers, or the lack of natural resources. We achieved a miracle that no one could dream of by empowering the people and endlessly trying something new."
He also thanked Singapore for hosting the United States-North Korea summit in June, saying: "Singapore has long made great efforts towards peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region."
After dessert, both presidents met Singaporean cook Paul Simon, 26, who works at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa and helped to prepare dishes for the banquet.
Mr Simon who has a mild intellectual disability, first met Madam Halimah in January when he got to prepare a three-course lunch for her. He had been featured in an article saying his dream was to cook for the President. Last night, he told reporters: "I want to welcome Mr Moon to Singapore and let him try some new food. I want to show him this is how we cook."