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Inter-Korean summit begins

Mainichi, Wednesday 14 June 2000

SEOUL—South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il put aside more than half a century of bitter enmity Tuesday when they warmly shook hands at an airport on the outskirts of Pyongyang.

Arriving for a monumental three-day round of summit talks, Kim Dae-jung was surprisingly greeted in a friendly manner by the normally reclusive Stalinist state dictator.

Goose-stepping soldiers, a military band and throngs of women in traditional garb complemented the first-ever meeting of the leaders of the belligerent brethren states, divided since the end of World War II and officially still at war.

The two Kims continued to treat each other warmly as they began a motorcade to the center of the North Korean capital.

The dictator’s appearance at the airport was unexpected, and South Korean officials said they were delighted with the elaborate reception.

Both leaders rode together in a motorcade into Pyongyang, where at least 600,000 orderly North Koreans lined block after block of broad avenues, waving bouquets of pink paper flowers. The population of Pyongyang is 2 million people.

The frantic, but possibly terrified, spectators appeared to direct their adulation at Kim Jong Il, whose name they chanted in unison as the motorcade passed a huge stone arch and other imposing monuments.

Kim Jong Il, who enjoys a personality cult in the xenophobic, communist north, often receives such displays from his people.

The pudgy Kim Jong Il normally shuns publicity and rarely meets visiting dignitaries, but he appeared relaxed and was dressed in a khaki, open-necked shirt and trousers. He welcomed Kim Dae-jung, wearing a dark suit, at the foot of his plane.

They sometimes held hands in a show of personal intimacy and exchanged views in the limousine during a 40-minute ride into Pyongyang, said Park Joon-young, South Korea’s presidential spokesman.

At a guesthouse, the two Kims posed for photographs in front of a mural of crashing waves and sat side by side in armchairs. Kim Dae-jung told Kim Jong Il that he hoped the two Koreas will end hostility and open a new era of reconciliation and cooperation, according to South Korean pool reports. Kim Jong Il said his goal was the same.

Kim Dae-jung proposed to the North Korean leader the setting up of a hotline between the two countries. (Combined from Mainichi and wire reports)