South Korean President Moon Jae-in is visiting North Korea’s capital for the first time, hosted by Kim Jong Un for three days of talks. The two leaders shared an embrace and stood in an open car to wave to spectators at a parade in Pyongyang.
It’s the third meeting between Moon and Kim – and the first to take place outside of the “truce village” of Panmunjom, on the border. Their agenda centers on two large goals: creating more ties between the two Koreas, and making progress in talks over North Korea’s denuclearization.
From Seoul, NPR’s Rob Schmitz reports:
“Upon arriving to the airport in Pyongyang, President Moon and his wife Kim Jung-Sook [were] greeted by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju on the tarmac as part of an official greeting ceremony. Crowds lining the tarmac cheered wildly and waved flags of a unified Korea.”
It took Moon only about an hour to fly from Seoul to Pyongyang. After landing in a country with which his nation is technically still at war, Moon said, “From the airplane, I observed North Korea’s mountains and rivers and the streets of Pyongyang from the time they appeared until we landed. No signs of division were visible at all from that point of view.”
Photos from Pyongyang showed Moon and Kim viewing a military honor guard at the airport — and then Moon gave Kim a ride from the airport in his Mercedes Benz, which had been specially modified to add an open roof over the back seat.
Luckily for the two leaders, it was a sunny and mild day in Pyongyang – but both of them could be seen trying to neaten their hair a bit as they arrived at the summit.
As The Korea Herald reports, the “vehicle diplomacy” was possible because Moon sent the secure vehicles into North Korea ahead of his visit.
The talks on the Korean Peninsula are taking place as the U.S. effort to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program has lost some momentum, months after President Trump met with Kim in June for a summit in Singapore.
Moon isn’t the first South Korean president to visit Pyongyang. Kim’s father, the late Kim Jong Il, hosted two different South Korean presidents for summit sessions at the capital in 2000 and 2007.
The Kim regime is famous for its scripted events, from enlisting thousands of chanting fans to carefully managing camera angles and appearances. And that attention to media coverage was plainly on display Tuesday. The choreographed activities included Kim and his sister, Kim Yo Jong, positioning Moon on a platform to review military troops in clear view of TV cameras, as the AP’s Foster Klug noted on Twitter.
Moon and Kim’s motorcade was essentially a parade, drawing crowds of thousands of well-dressed people who celebrated Moon’s arrival. In the middle of it all, a carload of North Korean cameramen was positioned to capture every moment.
Also attending this round of talks in Pyongyang: the CEO of Samsung and other heavyweights from South Korea’s business community. As The Chosun Ilbo reports, the industry leaders were added to the trip to explore possible ventures across the border.