South Korean security officials don jackets bearing code of hope

One of South Korea's Blue House security officers wearing a jacket with 12 numbers - 615104427919 - sewn onto the back. The digits stand for key moments in inter-Korean ties.
One of South Korea's Blue House security officers wearing a jacket with 12 numbers - 615104427919 - sewn onto the back. The digits stand for key moments in inter-Korean ties.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEOUL • Seoul security officials are wearing jackets embroidered with a secret well-wishing message for Mr Kim Jong Un, deploying a code representing key moments in inter-Korean relations ahead of a summit between the North Korean leader and US President Donald Trump.

The dark blue jackets - worn by about 10 officers of the Blue House's National Security Office - have the 12-digit sequence 615104427919 sewn onto the back.

The number 615 marks the June 15 North-South joint declaration in 2000, 104 stands for the Oct 4 North-South joint declaration in 2007, 427 is for the historic Panmunjom Declaration on April 27 last year, and 919 stands for the Sept 19 Pyongyang Joint Declaration that also took place last year.

"We just hope to keep the positive spirit alive," one jacket wearer told Agence France-Presse. "We have ordered and are wearing the jackets at work voluntarily. It was solely our idea to do this."

A Blue House spokesman refused to say whether the jacket wearers had the upcoming summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim specifically in mind this week as they donned the jackets, which they had made last year.

Mr Kim is expected to visit Seoul not long after the summit.

Cross-border ties improved dramatically as the leaders of the two Koreas met three times last year - twice at the border truce village of Panmunjom and once in the North's capital Pyongyang - and a reconciliatory push gathered pace.

The May 26 summit, the second inter-Korean talk held at Panmunjom last year, was not included on the coats as no declaration was released after the event, said the security official who wore the jacket.

 
 

"We wanted to have these numbers sewn on the back of our jackets so that we remember those key dates and wish our best for the next inter-Korean summit," he added.

He told of how one of his colleagues came up with the idea, brought it up during a work meeting, and others agreed to it.

During South Korean President Moon Jae-in's visit to Pyongyang last September, Mr Kim promised to pay a return visit to the South's capital Seoul. If Mr Kim visits as expected this year, he will be the first Kim dynasty leader to visit Seoul. Mr Moon welcomed Mr Kim's comments at the time, agreeing to meet him "more frequently" this year.

Mr Kim is scheduled to meet Mr Trump in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi on Feb 27 and 28, following their first summit in Singapore on June 12 last year.

Critics say that Pyongyang has made no concrete commitments so far and is unlikely to surrender its nuclear weapons.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2019, with the headline 'S. Korean security officials don jackets bearing code of hope'. Print Edition | Subscribe