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Anecdotes of the Pyongyang Summit

Chairman Kim Jong Il meets with south Korean president Kim Dae-jung
Anecdotes of the Pyongyang Summit
Thirteen years have passed since the Pyongyang summit was held and the historic June 15 North-South Joint Declaration, called a landmark for Korea’s reunification, was made public. The anecdotes about the days of the summit still move people.

“A Handshake of the Century”

On June 13, 2000, the Pyongyang Airport was crowded with people and journalists. President Kim Dae-jung of south Korea would be arriving at the airport within a few minutes. All of a sudden, loud cheers rose up, and Kim Jong Il, Chairman of the National Defense Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, appeared at the airport without prior notice. This took the pressmen from the West and the advance team of south Korea by surprise. 

A politician from the south said later, “When Chairman Kim Jong Il suddenly appeared in front of me, my feeling was, how could I explain it? It was as if I was struck by high-tension electricity.”

It was a shock that turned over at a go the thought of the south side that predicted the curtain of the summit would be raised with “minister-level reception” or “businesslike reception” and the Western convention. 

The south Korean president, too, who was taking the first step on the soil of the north, which the south had been hostile to and remained confronted with for half a century, could not repress his excited feeling. 

Chairman Kim Jong Il, with a broad smile on his face, received him and shook him by the hand. 

The reception at the airport shook the world in an instant. “A handshake of the century,” “The reception by Kim Jong Il at the airport is quite unprecedented,” “A shock that turned over the articles reporters have so far written in prediction,” and other pieces of news from Pyongyang were broadcast all over the globe.

Shock after Shock

The shock at the airport was followed by another shock: Disregarding the convention, Kim Jong Il took a limousine together with Kim Dae-Jung and went to the latter’s lodging through the streets lined with people who were welcoming. It seemed as if family members, reunited after a long separation, are trying to share their experience of the past. 

The next day it was informed that Kim Jong Ilwould see Kim Dae-Jung in his own place for the second meeting. Kim Dae-jung’s entourage, who were making preparations for the meeting in a hurry, could not but be surprised as they were informed that Kim Jong Il would come to the guest house for the day’s meeting for the convenience of the aged south Korean president.

When Kim Jong Il arrived, Kim Dae-jung expressed his heartfelt gratitude, in turn, Kim Jong Il said that it was a duty proper to a man to see an elderly in the latter’s place, asking him whether he had a good night.   

Kim Dae-jung and his entourage felt themselves being captivated by Kim Jong Il, who was so unceremonious and not so particular with the convention. It is quite natural that the Pyongyang summit held amidst such an atmosphere produced the ideal of By Our Nation Itself, core of the June 15 North-South Joint Declaration.

The First Family Escapes the Fate of Being a Separated Family

A banquet was held at Mokran House in Pyongyang on the night of June 14. 

Kim Jong Il, while taking his seat after acknowledging the cheers of the participants, asked where the First Lady of south Korea was. The south Korean minister of unification answered that she was sitting at another table. 

Kim Jong Il, feigning surprise, said that the banquet might make a separated family of the south Korean President, asking whether the south Korean side would make another separated family when it proposed settling the issue of separated families. As he continued that if they had made their president’s family a separated family, it would be made a laughing stock of the world, a roar of laughter burst out in the banquet hall. 

The south Korean First Lady said to Kim Jong Il in the following vein: As you pay so particular attention to my family, I do not know how to thank you; You make us so pleasant; your remarks are so witty that you are enjoying the attention of the audience.

Fathoming the Hearts of the Reporters

The atmosphere of the banquet grew quite amicable, and the banquet hall was filled with compatriotic feelings. 

At that time, a north Korean official handed to Kim Jong Il a draft of the North-South Joint Declaration, which both sides discussed and gave a finishing touch to it. 

After going over the document, Kim Jong Il told the official to show it to Kim Dae-jung.

Kim Dae-jung said that he agreed with it, and that he had no other opinion concerning the declaration. 

Kim Jong Il asked him to put their signatures on the declaration after the banquet was over and make it public. 

But Kim Dae-jung replied that the fact that the declaration had been agreed upon was made public there and then. 

Acquiescing his suggestion with pleasure, Kim Jong Ilwent to the platform with him and held his hand high, announcing in a solemn tone of voice that the historic North-South Joint Declaration was agreed upon. 

A cheer swept the banquet hall in an instant. 

The reporters from south Korea, however, hung their lips, for they missed the chance to take a picture of the historic scene. Fathoming their hearts, Kim Jong Il again went to the platform with Kim Dae-jung, and took him by the hand, holding it high. 

Camera shutters flashed one after another.

Kim Dae-jung Unbosoms His Heart

 After putting his signature on the historic North-South Joint Declaration, Kim Dae-jung gathered his entourage in his lodging, and said in the following vein: Chairman Kim Jong Il is so great and so humane that I trust him and would like to work with him; he is great at present, and his future is all the more bright; to see him so full of passion and vigor, I’m convinced of the rosy future of not only the north but the Korean nation as a whole; the ideals, which I have dreamed of for scores of years, have come true, and it is entirely thanks to Chairman Kim Jong Il.

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