March 06, 2018 12:02
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met a visiting South Korean delegation over dinner on Monday evening, just three hours after they arrived in Pyongyang.
Previously, North Korean leaders have taken their sweet time deciding whether or not to meet any visiting dignitaries or have not seen them at all.
Kim Jong-un has a different style from his reclusive father Kim Jong-il, but his eagerness to meet the South Koreans also indicates how keen he is to get out from harsh international sanctions.
Kim apparently spoke at length during the meeting and had by his side several of his key aides, including Kim Yong-chol, the head of the United Front Department.
Kim Jong-il usually had only one aide present when he met dignitaries from South Korea and China.
Since coming to power in 2012, Kim Jong-un has tried to project a more accessible image. Unlike his father, he has delivered many speeches in public, and visited missile bases and counterintelligence units which used to remain under wraps during his father's days. He is often seen holding hands or joshing with soldiers, which contrasted sharply with his father's remote and slightly bedraggled anorak style.
Instead, Kim Jong-un modeled himself on his grandfather, nation founder Kim Il-sung, who at least in his early years came across as a jovial man.
But Kim has very little diplomatic experience due to his country's isolation. He has only met foreign visitors 11 times, and four of those were the eccentric former U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-il's former sushi chef Kenji Fujimoto.
The only official diplomatic contacts Kim has had were meetings with Chinese apparatchiks, a special envoy from Cuba and representatives from Syria, and the last was in July 2016.
And he has his own record of snubbing dignitaries. He snubbed Chinese President Xi Jinping's envoy Song Tao, who visited the North last year for four days. He also invited former South Korean first lady Lee Hee-ho to mark the sixth anniversary of the death of her husband Kim Dae-jung in August 2015 but did not bother to meet her.
In 2013, he pointedly refused to meet visiting Mongolian president Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, who had been a little too outspoken about his regime's shortcomings.
But Kim was in no position to snub the South Koreans delegation. Kim Seung, who was a policy adviser for the Unification Ministry said, "We can see how desperate Kim Jong-un is from the fact that he sent his pregnant sister to the South in the winter [to the Pyeongchang Olympics] to deliver his invitation. He clearly wishes to use inter-Korean relations to ease the impact of sanctions."
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