Hugs, laughter, banter mark historic Moon-Kim talks

South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting the guard of honour at the Peace House in the truce village of Panmunjom in the South yesterday. Mr Moon quipped that Mr Kim could see a better performance if he visite
South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting the guard of honour at the Peace House in the truce village of Panmunjom in the South yesterday. Mr Moon quipped that Mr Kim could see a better performance if he visited the presidential Blue House, to which Mr Kim replied that he was willing to do so "any time, whenever you invite me".PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Warm chemistry on display in emotional day for both leaders, raising hopes for peace

Holding each other's hand tightly in a farewell ceremony, South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watched a video montage set against the facade of the Peace House, and played to the South's 2015 unification campaign song One Dream One Korea.

The lyrics - "For the day we become one, for our heart-beating dream, I want you, let us hold our hands, you and I, one dream for one Korea" - epitomised an emotional, historic day for both leaders, with hopes raised for a rapprochement on the divided Korean peninsula.

The two Koreas are separated by the heavily fortified demilitarised zone (DMZ), a 4km-wide strip stretching 248km from coast to coast, 65 years after the Korean War was ended with a truce instead of a peace treaty. The Peace House, on the South Korean side of the Military Demarcation Line that serves as a de facto border, is in the truce village of Panmunjom.

The farewell ceremony followed a dinner attended by Mr Kim's wife Ri Sol Ju and Mr Moon's wife Kim Jung Sook, who shared a hug last night before the North's delegation returned to Pyongyang. So, too, did Mr Moon and Mr Kim, after they signed a joint declaration vowing to put an end to the decades-long war.

Yesterday's scenes of the leaders walking and laughing together stand in stark contrast to the grim and tense faces brought on by the barrage of North Korean missile tests and its largest-ever nuclear test last year.

Their warm chemistry was on display throughout the day, starting at 9.30am (8.30am Singapore time) when Mr Moon held Mr Kim's hand as he stepped across the border into South Korea in a landmark moment beamed to millions globally.

  • PANMUNJOM DECLARATION: THE KEY POINTS

  • Denuclearisation

    South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realising, through complete denuclearisation, a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

    Peace regime

    They agreed to pursue trilateral meetings involving the two Koreas and the United States, or quadrilateral meetings involving the two Koreas, the US and China with a view to declaring an end to the war and establishing a permanent peace regime.

    Pyongyang visit

    The two leaders agreed to hold frequent and candid discussions on issues vital to the nation, to strengthen mutual trust. President Moon Jae In agreed to visit Pyongyang this fall.

    Family reunions

    South and North Korea agreed to try to swiftly resolve the humanitarian issues that resulted from the division of the nation. They agreed to proceed with reunion programmes for the separated families on the occasion of National Liberation Day on Aug 15 this year.

    Joint sporting teams

    The two sides agreed to jointly participate in international sporting events such as the 2018 Asian Games.

    Disarmament

    South and North Korea agreed to carry out disarmament in a phased manner, as military tension is alleviated and progress is made in confidence building.

    No more war

    The two leaders solemnly declared before the 80 million Korean people and the whole world that there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

"You came to the South, but when can I go over to the North?" Mr Moon asked Mr Kim.

"Why don't we go over now?" replied Mr Kim in an unscripted moment, taking his host by the hand as they stepped across the border briefly.

They were then presented flowers by a South Korean boy and girl attending an elementary school at Daeseong-dong - the South's only civilian habitation within the DMZ.

During the guard of honour inspection, Mr Moon quipped: "It's unfortunate you can only see the simplified version of the traditional routine. If you come to the presidential Blue House, we can show you a far better performance."

Mr Kim replied that he was willing to go to the Blue House "any time, whenever you invite me".

He later said that he was "flooded with emotion" as he crossed the cement blocks that mark the border.

"(It was) so easy," he said, wondering "why it took so long" - referring to the last summit in Pyongyang in 2007, when then South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun first crossed the border by foot.

Mr Kim also promised Mr Moon that he will "make sure I won't interrupt your morning sleep any more" - alluding to the North's ballistic missile launches last year that had mostly taken place before dawn.

He wrote in the Peace House guestbook: "A new history begins now - at the starting point of history and the era of peace."

The two leaders broke for lunch in their respective countries at about 12pm. Mr Kim returned to the South at 4.30pm.

  • A FRIENDLY CHAT

  • The leaders chatted yesterday morning in Panmunjom, a military compound in the Demilitarised Zone between the two countries. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in a light-hearted manner, said he will not disturb South Korean President Moon Jae In's sleep anymore with missile tests.

    Moon: "How did you get here?"

    Kim: "(I) came by car at dawn and passed by Kaesong. You must have set out early in the morning."

    Moon: "I was only 52km away, so it took about an hour."

    Kim: "I heard that you lost sleep early in the morning attending NSC (National Security Council) meetings because of us, it must now be a habit to wake up early."

    Moon: "As the chairman has spoken (about related issues) to the special envoys, I will be able to sleep well from now on."

    Kim: "I will ensure that the president does not lose sleep early in the morning. Walking the 200m, I wondered why it took so long, why it was so difficult. Initially, I thought I would meet you in Pyongyang, but it has turned out better that (we) meet here. Many are watching (the meeting) at a place symbolising conflict. On the way, I noticed that those who lost their homes (due to the Korean War), North Korean defectors, people of Yeonpyeong island and others who were worried about artillery shells from the North are all watching our meeting with anticipation. I hope that this will be an opportunity to heal the wounds between the South and the North. The demarcation line is not high, and would it not disappear if many people step over it?"

    Moon: "Many people saw me off on my way from Cheong Wa Dae. There is high anticipation about our meeting today. (I) took a photograph with the people of Daeseong-dong. Our shoulders are heavy. Starting at Panmunjom today, I hope the meetings continue in Pyongyang, Seoul, Jeju and Baekdusan."

They planted a pine tree sown in 1953, to mark the year the ceasefire was signed. In a ceremony laden with symbolism, they used soil from the South's Mount Halla and the North's Mount Baekdu, and water from the Han River in the South and the Daedong River in the North.

They then strolled towards a footbridge that has just been given a fresh coat of blue paint - the colour of the flag of a unified Korean peninsula. Without their aides, they spoke one-on-one for 30 minutes.

After issuing the joint declaration, the leaders adjourned for a dinner banquet. On the menu was Swiss rosti with a Korean twist, the fried potato dish chosen as a homage to Mr Kim's childhood, which he spent in Switzerland.

Baked John Dory made with flat sea fish from the port city of Busan where Mr Moon grew up was also served, while Mr Kim brought Pyongyang-style cold noodles.

In the morning, Mr Moon told Mr Kim that they would "have ample time to talk".

And talk they did - they bid farewell only at about 9.30pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2018, with the headline 'Hugs, laughter, banter mark historic Moon-Kim talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe