Seoul, South Korea: The much-awaited summit between Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in began, Friday, in the “truce village” of Panmunjom. It is the first time the leaders of the two nations sat down for talks in over a decade.
The first inter-Korean summit since 2007, when Kim’s late father Kim Il-sung met then-South Korean leader Roh Moo-hyun, is drawing all the eyes, coming ahead of the highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.
Kim Jong Un crossed the inter-Korean border Friday and met with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in in the heavily armed demilitarized zone of Panmunjom, for an inter-Korean summit after decades-long conflicts on the Peninsula.
After Kim Jong Un walked across the MDL into the South Korean side, Kim, to become first DPRK leader that set foot on the South Korea’s territory since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, Moon Jae-in also briefly crossed the border into the DPRK side.
The military demarcation line (DML), marked only by a low cement slab on an aisle between blue pavilions sits in the middle of the truce village that divides the two Koreas.
They then returned back to the South Korean side of Panmunjom together, grasping hands with each other, marking a historic moment for the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade.
They took ceremonial photos facing the DPRK side and then the South Korean side.
Moon and Kim were then escorted by a traditional South Korean honor guard to the Panmunjom square lying between the buildings of the Freedom House and the Peace House, a venue for the Moon-Kim summit, the third-ever between the divided Koreas, following the first and second ones in 2000 and 2007, respectively.
Moon and Kim inspected a honor guard, composed of about 300 service members of the South Korean army, navy and air force as part of an official welcoming ceremony.
The South Korean president introduced Kim to his seven-member senior entourage, including presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok and Suh Hoon, chief of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), who attended a closed-door talks between the two leaders at the Peace House.
For Kim, his nine-member entourage included Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of the DPRK leader and the first vice department director of the Central Committee of the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK), and Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the WPK Central Committee.
After the welcoming ceremony, Moon led Kim along a red carpet into the Peace House, where Kim wrote a message in the guestbook and took a commemorative photo with Moon on the first floor.
“A new history begins now,” he wrote, “an age of peace from the starting point of history,” according to the inter-Korean summit joint press corps.
In his introductory remarks for the morning talks, Kim told Moon that at the starting line, it was time to “write a new history” in the DPRK-South Korea relations and peace and prosperity.
The DPRK leader vowed to produce a good outcome by sincerely and frankly talking with Moon, suggesting not making proposals which the two sides will not be able to enforce.
In response, Moon suggested Kim reaching an agreement through broad-minded talks that can be a big gift to people of the Koreas and the peace-loving people around the world.
Moon praised Kim for his decision to cross the border into the South Korean side, saying Panmunjom changed into a symbol of peace from the symbol of division at the moment Kim walked over the MDL for the first time.
Friday’s inter-Korean talks come in two rounds. After the first session, which kicked off at 10:30 local time [1:30 GMT], the two leaders are set to take lunch separately and then plant a pine tree on the border to serve as a “symbol of peace and prosperity.” Making the move even more symbolic is the fact that the tree is planted with a mix of soil from the both countries’ mountains and water from their rivers. The sapling itself dates back to 1953, the year when the armistice agreement was struck between the South and North.
Following the ceremony, Kim and Moon will resume talks, at the end of which they will sign a pact and make an announcement, according to the South’s presidential chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, who revealed the details of the summit to the media.
The North Korean and South Korean leaders have reportedly vowed to end the peninsula war and commit to denuclearization.
As symbolically significant as the talks between the two Korean leaders are, Kim’s next high-level meeting is seen as both much more important and much less predictable. Kim is set to hold talks with Donald Trump in either May or June. Trump repeatedly said that he was “looking forward” to meeting the North Korean leader, but warned that he might walk away from the talks if they do not live up to his expectations.