PANMUNJOM/GOYANG, Apr. 27 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed sincere efforts to make progress at their bilateral summit Friday in the Joint Security Area of Panmunjom, which Moon said now symbolizes peace, instead of division.
The historic summit began after the leaders met for the first time at the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) inside the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone.
“It is good to see you,” Kim said to Moon, waiting just south of the MDL for their first-ever encounter that was quickly followed by a handshake.
“I cannot stop my excitement as we meet here at such a historical place. Also, it is very moving that you, Mr. President, have come to Panmunjom, the demarcation line, to greet me,” the North Korean leader said.
Moon also sounded upbeat, saying they were facing a “historic moment.”
Kim surprised many by inviting Moon to briefly cross the inter-Korean border to the North Korean side, which officials from Seoul’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae later said was not prearranged.
The leaders’ official talks began at 10:15 a.m., about 45 minutes after the North Korean leader crossed the MDL, becoming the first North Korean leader to do so at least since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
The talks ended shortly before noon after what Moon’s chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan described as very friendly and candid discussions.
The leaders jointly inspected a South Korean honor guard shortly after Kim crossed the inter-Korean border.
Moon told Kim that the latter could have been given a much better and more grand ceremony had he visited Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul, according to Yoon.
Kim said he would visit Cheong Wa Dae at any time if Moon invited him, the Cheong Wa Dae official told a press briefing.
When the leaders opened their official talks at 10:15 a.m., about 15 minutes off their original schedule, Kim was the first to speak.
“I say this before President Moon and many journalists here that I will hold good discussions with President Moon with a frank, sincere and honest attitude and make a good outcome,” he said at the start of the meeting, televised live.
Moon expressed his gratitude to Kim for agreeing to hold the summit.
“The moment Chairman Kim crossed the Military Demarcation Line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division,” he said, referring to Kim by his official title as the head of North Korea’s state affairs commission.
“I wish to again express my respect to Chairman Kim Jong-un’s decision that made today’s discussions possible,” he added.
The Moon-Kim meeting came amid thawing ties this year that followed the height of tension between the divided Koreas, which technically remain at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
North Korea staged nearly a dozen missile tests since Moon took office in May 2017, while also conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September.
Friday’s summit marked the third inter-Korean summit and the first to be held in South Korea.
Kim stressed the need for an agreement that will not collapse.
“I wish for it to be a chance for us to walk forward hand-in-hand while looking toward the future with a determination, instead of (summit) outcomes like those in the past that could not be implemented,” he told Moon.
The two Koreas had agreed to denuclearize their countries and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula in their two previous summits held in 2000 and 2007.
The agreements from the earlier inter-Korean summits have apparently collapsed.
“The world’s eyes and ears are directed toward this place, Panmunjom. The expectations of the people of both the South and the North, as well as our overseas citizens, are also very high,” Moon said of the importance of progress at the meeting.
“I wish our talks too will be held frankly, so we can reach an agreement and create a great present for our people and everyone else in the world who wishes for peace,” he added.
“I came to put an end to the history of confrontation and to resolve the issues that create problems in our relations together with the president,” the North Korean leader was quoted as saying.
“I have come to have confidence that a good day will certainly come,” he added, according to Yoon.
After the talks ended, Kim returned to his country for lunch before coming back to the South Korean side of Panmunjom for various events, including a friendship walk with Moon that turned out to be a one-on-one meeting.
Moon and Kim took a stroll together after planting a pine tree together to mark their historic summit.
They walked a few minutes and then sat at a table set up on a wooden bridge at Panmunjom to talk.
Unlike in official talks where the leaders are usually accompanied by at least one official from each side, Moon and Kim sat alone with all their officials standing at a distance, apparently far enough away to make sure none of their remarks were audible.
While the leaders talked, so did working-level officials from the two Koreas.
“They have agreed to continue working-level discussions to craft a joint declaration, and once the declaration is made, the leaders will hold a signing ceremony and jointly announce it,” Yoon said earlier.
Moon earlier said what he and Kim agreed in their earlier discussions would be a great present to the entire world.
The South Korean president is set to host a welcome dinner for Kim and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, later in the day.
Ri will arrive at Panmunjom at 6:15 p.m. for a brief visit with South Korean first lady, Kim Jung-sook, according to Yoon.
It will be the first-ever meeting of first ladies of the divided Koreas.