Talks on the Moon-Kim hotline

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Talks on the Moon-Kim hotline

South and North Korea held a working-level meeting on Saturday at the border village of Panmunjom to discuss setting up a hotline between their two leaders.

Officials from the two sides agreed to hold a second meeting in coming days.

Saturday’s meeting was attended by three South Korean officials whose identities were withheld by the government. The North also sent a group of three to four officials with expertise in communications.

The meeting began at 10 p.m. at Tongilgak, a North Korean-controlled building on the northern side of Panmunjom.

The Blue House was tight-lipped about the discussion as it involved sensitive information on a highly symbolic and historic direct communication line between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The meeting came a month after the two sides agreed to such a hotline at a meeting in Pyongyang between Kim and a special delegation led by Chung Eui-yong, head of the Blue House’s National Security Office.

Moon and Kim are expected to use the hotline before the third inter-Korea summit scheduled for April 27.

While the details of Saturday’s meeting were kept secret, topics discussed were likely to have been safeguards to prevent electronic eavesdropping.

When all negotiations are complete, the hotline is expected to be set up in Moon’s presidential office and Kim’s office in the headquarters of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang, allowing the two to make a direct phone call at any time.

The Blue House said Friday that it decided to call Ri Sol-ju, the wife of Kim who is expected to accompany him to Panmunjom on April 27, the first lady in accordance with diplomatic protocol.

“We have judged it would be most natural and official to use the title ‘first lady’ [for Ri],” said a senior presidential official speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The official added that North Korea had called Moon’s wife, Kim Jung-sook, “first lady.”

For Kim Jong-un, who has a number of official titles in the North including Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, the Seoul government decided to use “Chairman of State Affairs Commission” of North Korea as his official title for the summit.

The April 27 summit will have Kim cross the border as the venue - the Peace House building - is on the southern side of Panmunjom, making him the first North Korean leader to step on South Korean soil.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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