Moon and Kim visit summit of Mt. Paektu with wives

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Moon and Kim visit summit of Mt. Paektu with wives


From left, North Korean first lady Ri Sol-ju, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife, Kim Jung-sook, at the crater lake of Mount Paektu (9,003 feet) in Samjiyon County, Ryanggang Province, on Thursday morning. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

The leaders of the two Koreas and their wives ascended Mount Paektu on Thursday morning before South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his delegation return home after a three-day summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The Blue House said in a statement that Moon, South Korean first lady Kim Jung-sook, North Korean leader Kim and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, reached Paektu's highest peak, Janggun (9,003 feet), and also the crater lake, which was possible due to fine weather conditions.

The two couples strolled around, the South's presidential office continued. Close aides of Moon, including Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, accompanied them. Pool photos showed South Korean business tycoons, including Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, on the mountain as well.

Paektu is the highest mountain on the Korean Peninsula, and is an active volcano that straddles the China-North Korean border. It holds great cultural significance for both Koreas because it's considered the mythical birthplace of the Korean race.

In North Korean society, it's better known for something else – where founding father Kim Il Sung fought against Japanese colonial forces in the early 20th century, and where his son, Kim Jong-il, was born. That's at least what North Koreans are taught, though South Korean intelligence authorities believe Kim Jong-il, the father of North Korea's current leader, Kim Jong-un, was born someplace else.

Paektu is a key propaganda tool that highlights the god-like images of North Korea's ruling dynasty, a pillar of the personality cult surrounding the Kims.

The Blue House tried to distance itself from any controversy Moon could possibly face when he returns home later today.

Yoon Young-chan, Moon's senior secretary for public affairs, stressed Wednesday at the press center at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in eastern Seoul that Paektu was Korea's "spiritual mountain" and that Moon had consistently said he wished to reach the summit from North Korea's side one day. It appeared that Pyongyang took his wish into consideration when they suggested he and Kim Jong-un visit the mountain together, Yoon added.

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