‘A Passionate Heart and a Cool Head’

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‘A Passionate Heart and a Cool Head’

The landmark South-North summit, the first in the 55 years since the division of the Korean peninsula, began with an exceptional event. National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il made an unexpected appearance at Pyongyang’s Sunan Airport to greet South Korean President Kim, even awaiting him at the bottom of the plane‘s staircase. They stood together to inspect the guard of honor.

Crowds of North Koreans gave President Kim an enthusiastic welcome, not only at the airport but lining the streets all the way toward the presidential guesthouse. North Korea put its best efforts into giving President Kim a courteous and respectful greeting. We all believe that the extraordinary welcome from National Defense Commission Chairman Kim and North Korean residents represents the hopes harbored by North Korea for this summit. We hope that this expectation will benefit the South-North summit.

The exceptional welcome from North Korean leader Kim and the fervent reception by North Korean residents could be interpreted as an action with a number of different motives. Chairman Kim did not hide the fact that he is actively involved in the improvement of relations between South and North Korea. In particular, Kim Jong-il, broadcast on South Korean TV for the first time, bowed to President Kim in greeting, and personally led the way for the South Korean delegation. Kim Jong-il demonstrated his regard for President Kim even while they were getting into the car, giving him the seat on the right, a Korean act of respect. We are seeing a new side of Kim Jong-il. It seems he is expressing his appreciation of the Kim Dae-jung administration, which has promoted the ‘Sunshine’ policy of engagement toward North Korea, in addition to North Korea's hope. It could also be interpreted as a means to disarm the South and dissolve any feelings of hostility toward the North

In addition, it seemed that Kim Jong-il was making a gesture of reconciliation toward the world. Kim Jong-il, broadcast on TV throughout the world via South Korea, would have come across as a leader eager to achieve reconciliation with South Korea. More broadly, the gesture could illustrate the range of activities which Chairman Kim is prepared to undertake to open up North Korea. It could represent the North‘s eagerness to smooth the passage of economic support through increased exchange with South Korea, especially to boost the power supply and enable long-term investment in agricultural and social infrastructures.

We believe that Kim Jong-il’s welcome is a strong indicator of his intention to oversee the opening up of North Korea. Moreover, we interpret this transformation of North Korean policy as positive. If the two leaders are able to talk tete-a-tete, many issues between South and North Korea will be resolved. A promising start was the leaders‘ passage from the airport to the presidential guesthouse in the same car. As many more oportunities for heart-to-hearts will present themslves in private meetings, we expect a dramatic agreement, in which major barriers between South and North Korea will be removed.

South Korean President Kim said upon his departure from Seoul that he left for North Korea with “a passionate heart and a cool head.” Therefore, we expect that South Korea will maximize support to North Korea and agree on substantial issues to achieve reconciliation and to ease tension - including resolving the issue of separated families - within the range of expectation created by Kim Jong-il’s welcome and the fever visible in North Korea.

We believe that the impassioned expectations of both South and North Korea, heightened by this first summit, will result in the agreement of further summits in the future. We put our faith in the belief that this is the first landmark step towards the ultimate goal of reunification.

by Seo Kyong-ho

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