North Korean media hails ‘candid’ talks with neighbours in South

State media says discussions wrapped up with amicable ‘feelings of blood relatives’

Korean media reacted in overwhelmingly positive fashion to Friday's groundbreaking inter-Korean summit between the South's president Moon Jae-in and North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

There were glowing reports issued from both sides of the demilitarised zone between the two countries.

After years of rising military tensions, Mr Moon and Mr Kim met in the truce village of Panmunjom for talks that appeared surprisingly warm and resulted in a joint declaration calling for complete denuclearisation of the peninsula and a formal end to the Korean War.

"North and South Korea affirmed the common goal of realising a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula through complete denuclearisation," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.


The agency also said the sides engaged in a “candid and open-hearted exchange of views on the matters of mutual concern” and that the night wrapped up with a dinner with an “amicable atmosphere overflowing with feelings of blood relatives”.

North Korea gave much of the credit to Mr Kim, saying it was a goodwill message in his New Year address that started the ball rolling towards Friday's summit.

Along the way, North Korean athletes marched with their southern neighbours under a unified flag at the winter Olympics in South Korea, and an all-Korean women’s hockey team competed at the games.

He has also made more recent pledges towards denuclearising the Korean peninsula and North Korea’s largest newspaper the Rodong Sinmun also published the full text of Friday’s joint statement.


“The summit has been arranged under Kim’s strong determination for unification,” the newspaper said in a front-page article which focused mostly on praising Mr Kim for showing leadership in meeting with Mr Moon.

On the southern side of the border, TV broadcasts ran lengthy step-by-step analyses of the meeting, examining the body language and symbols.

South Korea’s national broadcaster KBS had in-depth post-summit coverage, including a close examination of Mr Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong.

Her role during the summit was striking, as she is effectively Mr Kim’s assistant, handing him documents to sign, making sure he wore gloves when planting a pine tree and other logistical duties.

Ms Kim reddened clearly when she was told by the South Koreans how she had become a celebrity in the country after her appearance at the Winter Olympics, during which she is thought to have personally handed a letter to Mr Moon to set the ball rolling on the inter-Korean summit.

The surprising warmth and openness has caused a wave of optimism to ripple across South Korea, but there were also voices urging calm after the two previous summits held in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007, respectively ended in failure.

“This is looking good but I’m trying not to get too carried away because this is what has happened in the past,” Robert Kelly from Pusan University told Arirang TV. “There is not a lot of patience anymore for North Korea’s lack of follow-through and if this happens again, the Trump administration is going to go back to where we stood before relatively quickly.”

Goodwill gesture

A goodwill gesture could involve giving up a few smaller nuclear weapons, although that is not probably a bridge too far, said Mr Kelly, with nuclear inspectors a more realistic prospect to see what stockpiles of weapons and materials the North Koreans have and also whether it is safe, given recent fears of problems at the nuclear test site.

Despite all the optimism, the attention now turns to the meeting between Donald Trump and Mr Kim, which is expected some time in coming weeks and commentators were generally reluctant to call how that meeting could go.

The declaration earned guarded but optimistic praise from world leaders, including Mr Trump, who said that only time would tell, but that he did not think Mr Kim was “playing.”

“It’s never gone this far. This enthusiasm for them wanting to make a deal ... We are going to hopefully make a deal,” he said.

Still, Mr Trump told reporters, he would maintain pressure on North Korea and “not repeat the mistakes of past administrations.”

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing