World News

North and South Korean Leaders’ Own Words in Meeting at the DMZ

Posted April 27, 2018 11:45 a.m. EDT

HONG KONG — The meeting between North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, and South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, offered a rare opportunity to hear Kim speak spontaneously, without the filter of his nation’s state news media.

While much of the discussion between the two leaders was not revealed, South Korean officials did describe some. These are among their comments during Friday’s meeting on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone.

“Now you are here in the South, and I wonder when I can cross over to the North,” Moon said when Kim crossed the border and they shook hands.

“Why don’t you now?” Kim said.

He took Moon by the hand, and they crossed over a low concrete slab that marks the border. They stood in North Korea, shaking hands for a few seconds, before returning to the South.

Kim found a moment to make light of his country’s missile and nuclear tests, which have caused such deep concern in recent years.

“I heard you had your early-morning sleep disturbed many times because you had to attend the NSC meetings because of us,” Kim said with a smile, referring to the security council. “Getting up early in the morning must have become a habit for you. I will make sure that your morning sleep won’t be disturbed.”

“Now I can sleep in peace,” Moon replied.

In one conversation, Kim made reference to several delicate points in relations between the two sides.

“On my way here I saw that those who had been nervous about any shelling from the North Korean army — including the Yeonpyeong Island residents, North Korean defectors and displaced people — do have high hopes for our meeting today,” he said.

Kim’s mention of Yeonpyeong Island refers to a 2010 attack from the North that killed two South Korean marines and two civilian construction workers. The “displaced people” is a reference to Korean families who were separated during the Korean War.

“I look forward to making the most of this opportunity so that we have the chance to heal the wounds between the North and the South,” Kim added. “The demarcation line, which is in fact not high, may disappear with many people stepping on it and passing over it.”

Moon mentioned a recent bus crash in North Korea that killed 32 Chinese tourists and four North Korean workers.

“I heard there was an unfortunate accident in the North,” Moon said. “You must have been busy handling it. I was told that you went to a hospital to meet the victims in person and prepared a special train for them.”

There was no indication that Kim replied.

The leaders from both sides mentioned their hopes for peace.

“I came here to put an end to the history of confrontation as well as to work shoulder to shoulder with you to tackle the obstacles between us,” Kim said. “I came with the confidence that a brighter future awaits us.”

Moon replied: “It is the two of us who deal with the matters on the Korean Peninsula firsthand, but we should also work in concert with the world. We should take the initiative in handling our matters so that surrounding countries can follow us.”

While some of the discussion touched on the violence and bloodshed on the Korean Peninsula since the start of the Korean War in 1950, the leaders tried to insert moments of levity, too.

Moon described the widespread attention Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, received in the South when she attended the Winter Olympics in February.

She “rose to stardom in South Korea,” Moon said. The delegates laughed at the comment, and Kim Yo Jong, who came to the South with her brother Friday, visibly blushed, according to South Korean officials.

Despite the significance of the meeting, some of their discussion was distinctly small talk.

“How did you get here?” Moon asked Kim when they first met.

“I came here by car via Kaesong early this morning,” Kim replied. “You must have departed early in the morning, too.”

Moon replied, “It just took me about an hour.”