In a photo-op that looks certain to become iconic, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will waddle across the inter-Korean border in the iconic truce village of Panmunjom at 9:30am on Friday for the third-ever inter-Korean summit, where he will be greeted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and a “traditional honor guard.”
Details of Friday’s summit were finally made official at a briefing at the press center set up at the KINTEX conference center in the dormitory town of Ilsan, north of Seoul and south of the DMZ, and by a statement released by the presidential Blue House.
Kim’s visit marks the first time a North Korean leader has ever set foot on South Korean soil. The peninsula was divided in 1945; separate states were established in 1948. Polarization was exacerbated by the 1950-53 Korean War, which followed guerrilla fighting and uprisings in the South, but which was ignited by a full-scale North Korean invasion in June 1950.
Kim will step across the MDL – the military demarcation line with the actual border in the center of the 4 kilometer wide Demilitarized Zone marked by a line of concrete set on a bed of gravel – passing the famed blue huts of “conference row” in Panmunjom.
On the southern side of Panmunjom he will be greeted by Moon and a “traditional honor guard” of the South Korean military.
At 09:40am, the two will hold an official welcoming ceremony in front of “Peace House,” the three-story building in the southern zone of Panmunjom, where the talks will take place, before starting the summit at 10:00am.
There will be a break for lunch, with the delegations dining separately.
In the afternoon, the two leaders will plant a pine tree on the MDL. The tree in question dates back to 1953, the year the Korean War ended with an armistice. The two leaders will mix soil from Mt Halla – South Korea’s tallest mountain on the southern island of Jeju – and from Mt Baekdu – the extinct volcano on the China-Korea border, and the highest mountain on the peninsula. They will then water it with water from the Han River, which runs through Seoul, and from the Daedong River, in Pyongyang.
The two are then “likely to engage in friendly chat” as they survey a footbridge in Panmunjom before returning to Peace House for the afternoon session. A welcoming dinner will be held at 6:30pm and then a video, using the façade of Peace House as a screen, will be shown. That will conclude the summit.
This will be the third inter-Korean summit. The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il met South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun in 2000 and 2007 respectively. However, this meeting will be the first for both Kim and Moon.
Key agenda items are expected to be denuclearization, a peace treaty to end the Korean War and building a “peace regime” on the Korean peninsula.
The summit will also be a key scene-setter, and possibly agenda-setter, for the upcoming Kim-Donald Trump summit – the first North Korea-US summit, which is expected to be held in May or early June at an as yet to be decided location.