Kim Jong-un Plays Gracious Host to Moon

  • By Ahn Jun-yong

    September 19, 2018 13:47

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ruefully admitted to President Moon Jae-in that the facilities are run-down as he showed him into its state guesthouse, Paekhwawon in Pyongyang on Tuesday.

    "Our guesthouse is shabby compared to those in the developed countries you have visited," Kim said. "I hope you'll accept our hospitality because we've done our best to serve you."

    It was a rare public admission, though it is also considered polite in even the grandest Asian palaces to deprecate them in the presence of guests. After their motorcade arrived at the guesthouse around 11:15 a.m, the Moons and Kims chatted amiablely in the vestibule, and Kim's remarks were broadcast live around the world.

    But Kim explained that the guesthouse nonetheless has an illustrious history since the June 15th, 2000 Joint Declaration and the Oct. 4th, 2007 Joint Declaration were signed there.

    "I've always been conscience-stricken because we couldn't give a proper welcome and a square meal to President Moon in May, because the place wasn't well-furnished when you visited our side of Panmunjom," for their second summit, he added. "I've been looking forward to this day."

    South Korean officials line up to shake hands with Kim Yong-nam, North Korea's perpetual titular head of state, in Pyongyang on Tuesday.

    Moon was properly gracious in return. "I was really filled with emotion as you gave me such a warm welcome today," he demurred. "It was the best hospitality I've ever received."

    Politeness apart, Kim seems seriously concerned about the dilapidated state of his country in ways his famously drab father Kim Jong-il never was. At their first summit in Panmunjom on April 27, he worried about inconvenience Moon would experience in the North because of the "inferior transport infrastructure."

    The North Korean officials "who've been to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics spoke highly of the KTX bullet train [between Seoul and Gangneung]. I think anybody who lives in such an environment in the South could feel disappointed when they visit the North," he said.

    Kim's humility seems partly aimed at urging South Korea to speed up economic cooperation as well as portraying himself as a more open-minded leader than his father.

    "It's his negotiation technique, presenting the image of a broad-minded leader and making his opponent trust him by acting humble," said Yun Duk-min, a former chief of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy. "He tries to stress the urgent need for South Korea to give economic assistance to the North within such a framework."

    "Kim was candid about the North Korean economy," Shin Beom-chul of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies said. "But we shouldn't be bamboozled by his rhetoric because it has nothing to do with the regime's intention to denuclearize or not."

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