Roh in Pyongyang for inter-Korean summit

Updated: 2007-10-02 15:04

Pyongyang - South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun arrived in Pyongyang Tuesday on a three-day visit, during which he will hold talks with the top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong Il.

Wearing his trademark army two-piece suit, Kim Jong Il greeted Roh at a grand welcoming ceremony held on the Square of April 25 Cultural Hall. The two leaders shook hands and then Roh, accompanied by Kim, inspected a guard of honor.

Thousands of people, who gathered at the square to welcome the South Korean leader and his 300-member delegation, waved flowers and cheered as Roh's motorcade arrived.

Upon arrival in Pyongyang, Roh was earlier greeted by Kim Yong Nam, the DPRK's top legislator, outside the People's Culture Palace.

During his stay in Pyongyang, Roh will visit the Mansudae Hall for a meeting with Kim Yong Nam on Tuesday afternoon. He is expected to hold two rounds of talks with Kim Jong Il Wednesday on inter-Korean co-prosperity, peace, reconciliation and reunification.

Roh is also scheduled to watch a mass dance and musical spectacle, the Arirang, Wednesday and visit a few industrial sites in the DPRK.

Roh, who traveled overland to Pyongyang, walked across the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) earlier Tuesday, which separates the South and North, to dramatize his efforts for reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

Roh became the first-ever leader from the South to cross the border on foot, which symbolizes more than half a century of estrangement since the 1950-1953 Korean War. His predecessor, Kim Dae-jung, traveled to the DPRK by air for the first inter-Korean summit in June 2000.

Prior to the historic step at around 9:05 am (0005 GMT), Roh said he will make efforts to bring about peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.

"I can see nothing around here. But this (invisible) border line has been a barrier separating the Korean people for the past half a century," he said.

"The Korean people have suffered too much pain because of this border line. I'll work hard to pave the way for (inter-Korean) peace and prosperity," said the president.

After the emotional speech, Roh, First Lady Kwon Yang-suk and some other South Korean officials walked about 30 meters to cross the border.

Established as the ceasefire line at the end of the Korean War, the MDL has served as a symbol of Korean separation for more than five decades.

In a televised statement delivered to his countrymen before he left the presidential palace earlier in the day, Roh said his trip will facilitate ties between the two sides.

"If the inter-Korean summit in 2000 can be said to have paved a new path for South-North relations, the summit this time will be able to remove stumbling blocks on the way and hasten the slow march," he said.

Roh vowed to put a new Korean Peninsula peace arrangement to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War at the top of his summit agenda.

"There will be various items on the agenda for discussion, but, among other things, I intend to concentrate on making substantive and concrete progress that will bring about a peace settlement together with economic development," said the president.

South Korea and the DPRK are still at war technically as the Korean War ended by a truce, not a peace treaty.

On inter-Korean economic cooperation, Roh said there are still "many obstacles along the road."

"Many of those barriers can be attributable not only to international factors but also to the gap in understanding between the South and North," he said. "I will marshal all my efforts to close the gap in understanding between the two Koreas."

The president said he will also work as hard as he can to hammer out a concrete agreement on such issues as building military trust and addressing humanitarian matters.

"I firmly believe that things will progress well. This is because the two Koreas are likely to remain on the same path if we take a far-sighted and broad stand," Roh stressed.

Roh's entourage includes 18 business leaders, 21 social and cultural dignitaries, and 50 journalists from South Korean media.

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