(ATTN: UPDATES with Yoon's message in condolence book in paras 5-6)
By Lee Haye-ah
LONDON, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol attended the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London on Monday, one of hundreds of world leaders who gathered here to honor the legacy of Britain's longest-reigning monarch.
Yoon and first lady Kim Keon-hee attended the funeral service at Westminster Abbey at 11 a.m. They were seated in the 14th row in the section reserved for foreign leaders, behind French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, and in the same row as U.S. President Joe Biden and his wife.
"President Yoon mourned the death of the queen, who demonstrated through practice the solidarity of liberal democratic nations during her 70-year reign," the presidential office said.
"President Yoon shared the grief of the British people on behalf of the government and people of the Republic of Korea, and once again expressed his commemoration of the deceased with the utmost respect," it said.
Following the funeral, Yoon signed a condolence book for the queen at Church House, writing, "I pray for the soul of the late Queen Elizabeth II and express my deep condolences to the British royal family and people."
"It was an honor to share time in the same era as the queen, who strove to defend freedom and peace. The government and people of the Republic of Korea will forever remember Queen Elizabeth II," he added.
The presidential office had initially said the book-signing would take place Sunday, shortly after Yoon arrived in London, but later revealed it had been canceled due to traffic conditions in the city.
Yoon did attend a reception hosted by King Charles III at Buckingham Palace on Sunday evening, but did not have other public engagements.
The cancellation of the book-signing led to rumors within South Korean online circles that Yoon had been snubbed by the British royal family and government, as other leaders from the Group of 7 nations had received proper care under diplomatic protocol.
Kim Eun-hye, senior presidential secretary for press affairs, hit back, saying the signing was postponed per the British government's instructions that world leaders arriving after 2 or 3 p.m. Sunday move it to Monday.
"Today is a sad day for the world that should be marked by consolation and mourning," Kim told reporters in London. "It is regrettable that such a sad situation is being used for domestic politics through unconfirmed stories."
Kim went on to say it is not proper courtesy to the host nation, which is a friend of South Korea, to create such controversy.
"I trust that the press will judge wisely with regard to such attempts to disparage us, as if we were treated poorly," she said.
The president will hold a ceremony later Monday to confer a medal on a British veteran of the Korean War before departing for New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly.
"President Yoon's visit to London reinforced the foundation of friendly relations between South Korea and Britain, while also further strengthening our solidarity with nations sharing the core values of a liberal democracy," the presidential office said.
Meanwhile, the office shared additional details of Yoon's meetings with world leaders during Sunday's reception.
Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah told Yoon he would like to visit South Korea and recalled how his mother visited the country and brought back the traditional Korean costume "hanbok" for her grandchildren.
Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene described South Korea as a "channel through which to see the world," while Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif promised to send a letter formally inviting Yoon to his country.