North Korea: What you need to know about the high-stakes inter-Korean summit this week
The leaders of North and South Korea will meet face-to-face for the first time this Friday, marking the first leadership summit between the divided countries in more than a decade.
- The summit will take place at the Peace House on the southern side of Panmunjom
- It includes a welcoming ceremony, a banquet dinner, and a formal leaders meeting
- Denuclearisation of the Peninsula and improved Korean ties are on the agenda
It comes after a short period of warming diplomatic relations between the two nations — a sharp contrast to last year’s rising tensions following a series of missile and nuclear weapons tests from North Korea.
The summit between North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in will also be only the third time leaders of the two countries have met since the start of the Korean War in 1950.
Interest in the talks around the world cannot be understated — a record breaking 2,833 journalists have registered to cover the event at the border truce village of Panmunjom, representing 168 South Korean and 180 overseas news outlets.
After the highly-anticipated inter-Korean summit, North Korea is expected to hold separate talks with US President Donald Trump in May or early June in what would be the first North Korea-US summit.
So with all eyes on the high-stakes talks, here is a look at what exactly goes into organising such a high-profile and historic summit.
Where is it being held?
Zoom in to our interactive map to see the Peace House (L) at the Panmunjeom truce village
The meeting will take place on Friday by the early afternoon at the Peace House on the southern side of Panmunjom village in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), which is divided into two by a military demarcation line.
This means Mr Kim must cross the border into South Korea in what would be a first for a North Korean leader since the Korean War.
The Peace House is a three-storey grey building built specifically for the purpose of facilitating inter-Korean talks and has undergone renovations over the past weeks for the summit.
The Peace House is on the southern side of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone. (AP: Lee Jin-man, File)
The truce village, otherwise known as the Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom, is one of the few places where South and North Korean troops stand face to face without a dividing fence.
In the centre sits the UN Command buildings, crossing the middle of the line — the Koreas usually take turns to meet on each other’s side for lower-level talks.
Workers have been putting the finishing touches in place by installing electronic goods, works of art and red carpets at the summit venue, according to South Korean media reports.
Who is going to the summit?
Six senior officials will accompany Mr Moon to the summit including: his chief of staff, Im Jong-seok; head of the National Security Office, Chung Eui-yong; chief of the National Intelligence Service, Suh Hoon; Unification Minister, Cho Myoung-gyon; Defence Minister, Song Young-moo; and Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, the South’s presidential office said.
It is not clear yet which North Korean officials will attend the summit with Mr Kim, but Ri Son-gwon, the chairman of North Korea’s committee for peaceful reunification of the country, headed the country’s high-level talks with the South in the lead up to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games and inter-Korean summit.
Mr Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong, the North’s nominal head of state, Kim Yong-nam, and General Kim Yong-chol were also part of the North’s delegation at the Winter Games.
Kim Chang-son, an official from the North’s state affairs commission, led North Korea’s six-member delegation for a working-level meeting earlier this month.
Meanwhile, there is also speculation that Mr Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, will accompany him to the summit after being given the title of First Lady, matching that of South Korea’s first lady Kim Jung-sook and Donald Trump’s wife Melania ahead of the back-to-back summits.
What is planned to take place on the day?
If the last high-level talks are anything to go by, the North’s delegation is expected to walk across the border about 10:00am, but the proceedings are expected to last several hours and run into dinner.
It is being speculated that Mr Kim will walk across the border via an aisle between the blue pavilions in the middle of Panmunjom and straddle the two sides.
Mr Moon is expected to greet Mr Kim in front of the border, which is marked only by a cement slab.
Last week, the Koreas agreed to allow live television broadcasts for key parts of the summit “from the moment they first shake hands”, according to a statement on the summit website.
Mr Moon’s office has said that the two sides agreed that Friday’s summit will include a welcoming ceremony and a banquet dinner as well as a formal meeting between Mr Moon and Mr Kim.
Mr Moon and Mr Kim will share cold noodles, known as naengmyeon, from the Okryugwan restaurant in Pyeongyang. (Supplied: Korea.net/Cheong Wa Dae)
The menu for the welcoming banquet will include steamed square dumplings, charcoal-grilled beef, cold octopus salad, grilled John Dory, Korean-style Swiss potato rosti, cold noodles, mango mouse and pine mushroom tea.
Pyongyang’s naengmyeon — or cold noodle soup — served by the Okryugwan restaurant is so famous that Mr Moon personally suggested to the North that the noodles be served for dinner for the summit.
The North will dispatch a top chef from Okryugwan, as well as a noodle-making machine, to Panmunjeom on the day of the summit to serve freshly made noodles.
South Korea’s Arirang News cited officials as saying a joint statement is expected to be released after dinner, and delegates are reportedly trying to negotiate to have Mr Kim take part in a live joint press conference during the talks.
The North and South are holding a rehearsal
While the talks will be the first face-to-face meeting between Mr Kim and Mr Moon, officials from both sides have been busy laying the groundwork and installing security measures for the summit.
Yonhap News Agency quoted officials from Seoul’s Blue House presidential office as saying security measures were especially sensitive as the upcoming summit will be the first of its kind to be held on South Korean soil.
On Monday, the two Koreas held a third round of working-level talks at Panmunjom and agreed to conduct a joint rehearsal of the summit at Panmunjom on Wednesday [today].
Earlier this week, South Korea stopped blasting its anti-North Korea propaganda across the border.
The broadcasts included a mix of news, Korean pop songs, and criticism of the North Korean regime.
They were stopped to ease military tensions and establish an environment for peaceful talks, Seoul’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Beefed-up security measures have also been a part of the Peace House refurbishments at the Panmunjom village, according to media reports
‘Peace, a new start’: What are they hoping for?
US officials say North Korea has in the past repeatedly reneged on denuclearisation agreements (Reuters: KCNA)
South Korea has chosen “Peace, a new start” as a slogan for the inter-Korean summit, where the agenda is expected to include the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and improvement of inter-Korean relations.
However, Chinese state media China Daily said negotiations about actual nuclear disarmament will likely prove arduous given such weapons are critical to Pyongyang’s sense of security.
South Korean Unification Minister Cho has said his delegation is preparing to discuss resuming reunions of family members separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War.
That conflict ended in a ceasefire and technically the two sides remain at war.
South Korean daily Munhwa Ilbo recently cited an unnamed official as saying that the two leaders may even discuss ways to replace the Korean armistice with a peace treaty.
Mr Moon and Mr Kim could also discuss returning the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone to its original state, the newspaper said.
Mr Trump has given his “blessing” for North and South Korea to discuss the end of the Korean War, but observers say there can be no genuine peace talks without the involvement of the other countries that fought the war.
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, left, and the head of North Korean delegation Ri Son-gwon. (Korea Pool/Yonhap via AP)