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Moon is first president to visit Workers’ Party HQ

Sept 19,2018
The third summit between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un was held Tuesday at the headquarters of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee in Pyongyang, marking the first time that a North Korean leader has hosted a South Korean president at the reclusive regime’s center of power.

When former South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun visited the North in 2000 and 2007, respectively, then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il met with them at the Paekhwawon State Guesthouse, where they both stayed.

The headquarters of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, which has been used by all three North Korean leaders, is considered holy ground in North Korean society.

It was only recently that Kim Jong-un opened its gates to foreign visitors. Moon’s special envoys visited the headquarters on March 5 and Sept. 5, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also was invited in on May 9 during his visit before the first North Korean-U.S. summit on June 12.

Jeon Hyun-joon, vice chairman of the board of directors at the Korea Peace Forum in Seoul, said that Kim’s choice to host Moon at the Workers’ Party headquarters was a show of will and confidence that aimed at promoting himself as a normal head of state.

Kim took over the headquarters building in 2011 after his father, Kim Jong-il, died that December. South Korean intelligence officials believe the North recently refurbished the building’s lobby.

Kim Jong-un’s office building is surrounded by the offices of the regime’s most powerful bodies, including the Organization and Guidance Department, Propaganda and Agitation Department and the Munitions Industry Department. Kim’s residence is located 200 meters (656 feet) away from where he works. The Blue House confirmed the meeting’s venue half an hour before the summit began at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

During Moon’s three-day visit to Pyongyang from Tuesday through Thursday, he and his closest aides will stay at the Paekhwawon State Guesthouse, Pyongyang’s official guesthouse for foreign high-level visitors. Others in Moon’s entourage will stay at the Koryo Hotel.

Moon will travel in one of two bulletproof Mercedes-Benz S600 sedans he brought from South Korea, just as former President Roh Moo-hyun did in 2007 during his own state visit to the North. When Kim Dae-jung visited the North in 2000, he was driven in a Lincoln Continental provided by the regime.

Shortly after Moon set foot at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport at 10:10 a.m. Tuesday, he hopped in one of his Mercedes-Benz cars and was followed by Kim Jong-un’s bulletproof car, a Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman Guard.

Midway through the parade in downtown Pyongyang, after both leaders stopped near the Three-Revolution Exhibition House and left their cars to greet a roaring crowd of North Korean spectators, Moon entered Kim’s car and Kim Jong-un’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, joined South Korean first lady Kim Jung-sook in Moon’s vehicle.

Both cars arrived at the Paekhwawon State Guesthouse at 11:17 a.m.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, JEONG YONG-SOO AND JOINT PRESS CORPS [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]


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