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Leaders of North, South Korea Decide Against Extending Summit

South Korean officials say a summit between the leaders of North and South Korea will wrap up as scheduled, despite an extension offer by the North Korean leader. It remains unclear whether the two made any concrete gains toward their goal of peace. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul, where international journalists are monitoring the summit in the North.

South Korean officials say President Roh Moo-hyun will head back home to Seoul as planned Thursday from his meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

The two leaders are expected to conclude their three-day summit Thursday with a joint statement, despite a proposition by Kim Jong Il to have the South's president stay a bit longer.

Kim Jong Il invited Mr. Roh to engage in an additional day of summit talks.

Mr. Kim later was quoted as saying the extra day of talks would be unnecessary. It is not yet clear whether the North Korean leader withdrew the extension offer on his own, or if the South's president declined the invitation.

President Roh arrived Tuesday in Pyongyang for the first inter-Korean summit in seven years. The two countries remain technically at war, 57 years after the North invaded the South. Mr. Roh says he wants to replace the 1953 armistice that ended fighting with a more permanent peace agreement.

Cameras captured several exchanges between the two leaders as they met Wednesday. Sound quality was poor, because microphones were kept at a distance. But the world did get a rare glimpse of the North's reclusive leader.

When Mr. Roh thanked Kim Jong Il for greeting him personally upon his arrival in Pyongyang, Mr. Kim offered a rare comment on his physical health.

Kim Jong Il jokes, "I am not a sick patient, and I do not need to be loafing around the house all day." South Korean media have speculated that Mr. Kim is in poor health.

A separate exchange following Mr. Kim's offer of a summit extension illustrated a difference in the two countries' political systems.

President Roh says he has to check with his advisors about the North Korean leader's proposal. Mr. Kim responds, "Cannot the president decide that on his own?"

Absolute political power rests in Kim Jong Il's hands in the North Korean system.

President Roh presented Mr. Kim with several dozen South Korean movie DVDs - a gift political analysts say is ironic, because North Korean citizens are prohibited from viewing such materials.

For the past five years, President Roh has sought to engage the North with a policy of maximum generosity and minimal public criticism. Critics say hundreds-of-millions of dollars in South Korean aid and investment in North Korea have produced little in return, and failed to prevent the North from testing a nuclear weapon last year.

At a lunch to thank his South Korean entourage, Mr. Roh hinted at frustration during some of this week's meetings.

He says whenever he tries to talk about opening up and reforming North Korea, Kim Jong Il and other senior leaders have demonstrated distrust.

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