Nation & World

A day of 'frank talk,' war, peace and noodles as North and South Korea meet

Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in hold historic meeting

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kim’s wife Ri Sol Ju and Moon’s wife Kim Jung-sook attend a farewell ceremony on Friday at the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea, inside the Demilitarized Zone separating their two nations. (Reuters photo)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kim’s wife Ri Sol Ju and Moon’s wife Kim Jung-sook attend a farewell ceremony on Friday at the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea, inside the Demilitarized Zone separating their two nations. (Reuters photo)
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In 2016, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to strike the residence of South Korea’s president with missiles, foreshadowing mounting tensions that have kept the world on alert ever since.

So when Kim stretched out his hand and smiled at South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday, the scene hardly could have been more surreal.

The historic moment was the result of months of negotiations and pressure by both China and the United States, even though it remains unclear how far North Korea is willing to give in.

North Korea also still is responsible for horrifying crimes against its own population, including labor camps and torture — something that wasn’t addressed in a statement the two leaders released Friday.

In their release, Kim and Moon announced their “common goal” of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, which was the clearest such commitment ever agreed by the two nations.

Curiously, North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize comes after a year in which Kim made major advances in developing and testing nuclear weapons.

Can the North Korean leader still retreat from his pledge and go back into escalation mode? He certainly can, but Friday’s overt friendliness may add an extra obstacle.

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Kim must have been aware of the message every public move Friday — a lot of hugging, smiling and handshaking — would send to the world.

The summit was not broadcast live inside North Korea and it remains uncertain how much of the friendly scenes North Koreans will be able to see.

Seven decades

Initially surrounded by North Korean officials who later stayed behind, Kim approached the border that has divided North and South Korea for almost seven decades. On the South Korean side of that border — marked by a small barrier — Moon was waiting.

Both shook hands before Kim stepped into South Korea.

No North Korean leader has ever set foot in South Korea since the de-facto end of the peninsula’s war that raged on until 1953.

Within the first seconds of the historic visit, Kim went off script, asking the South Korean leader to also step into North Korea.

In a scene that immediately went around the world, Kim and Moon then walked off to North Korea hand in hand, where they stayed for some moments before returning to South Korea and heading off to Panmunjom, the so-called “truce village.”

The armistice that ended the Korean War was signed there in 1953.

Friday may have been about war and peace, but it also was about noodles.

In another out-of-this-world moment, the dictator known for starving his own population said, “We brought cold noodles from Pyongyang. I hope the president will enjoy the noodles from far away.”

Kim paused, realizing that Seoul and Pyongyang are only about 120 miles away, and continued, “Well, I can’t say that they came from far away.”

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He then struck a more serious tone, reminding everyone that he and Moon would now “talk frankly, seriously and honestly.”

The “frank” talks didn’t appear to go badly.

Kim and Moon repeatedly appeared to deviate from the carefully prepared schedule and the official choreography. After the two shook hands while the summit was already underway, Kim and Moon hugged.

While the summit certainly produced historical images, experts were also surprised about more tangible results. At the end of the day, Kim and Moon agreed on a three-page statement.

“South and North Korea agreed to actively seek the support and cooperation of the international community for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the statement read.

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