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South Korean President Prepares 200-Strong Entourage for Pyongyang Trip

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in raise their hands after signing on a joint statement at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea, Friday, April 27, 2018. (Korea Summit Press Pool via AP)
Korea Summit Press Pool via AP

Leftist South Korean President Moon Jae-in has assembled an entourage of over 200 big business CEOs, pop stars, politicians, and journalists to accompany him to Pyongyang on Tuesday for his third summit this year with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Moon has met Kim twice, both times in the border town of Panmunjom, to discuss establishing peaceful relations between the two countries. While active hostilities in the Korean War ended more than half a century ago, neither side has signed a peace treaty and are technically still at war.

President Donald Trump has attempted to cooperate with Seoul to engage North Korea and convince the Kim regime to abandon its illegal nuclear weapons program. Moon has instead focused on attempting to appease Kim into cooperating with South Korea through sports, arts, and entertainment, inviting North Korea to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics in his country and floating the possibility of a joint bid for the FIFA World Cup.

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo reported Monday that Moon will bring with him a “17-member business entourage” to Pyongyang, despite North Korea being under an unprecedentedly severe global sanctions regime. Accompanying him are Lee Jae-yong, the most powerful executive at Samsung; the chairman of LG, Koo Kwang-mo; and vice chairman of Hyundai, Kim Yong-hwan, among others.

“North Korea apparently asked for them to come along even though international sanctions make any concrete business deals a distant prospect,” Chosun notes. “The business community here are grumbling that they are being forced to trudge along though palpable results are improbable and serve mainly as cheerleaders for Cheong Wa Dae’s hopes for the future.”
The business moguls are among “a total of 200 officials, politicians, business representatives, reporters and others [who] will accompany Moon to the summit in Pyongyang,” according to the Blue House, Seoul’s presidential estate.

Yonhap, a South Korean news agency, reported that Moon’s three-day trip will include, in addition to diplomatic discussions, a joint art performance featuring South Korean “pop singers” and, potentially, a performance by the North’s “Brilliant Fatherland mass gymnastics” troupe.

In addition to that group, 90 individuals working security and reporting on the event are believed to have already arrived in Pyongyang.

Moon is scheduled to leave Seoul at 8:40 a.m. local time Tuesday and arrive at 10 a.m. in Pyongyang.

“An official welcome ceremony is scheduled at the airport followed by a luncheon. After the luncheon, the first round of the summit talks will be held,” Moon’s chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, told reporters Monday. North Korean officials have agreed to allow a live broadcast to South Koreans from the airport. It remains unclear if North Koreans will also see the event live on their televisions or if Kim Jong-un will be there to greet Moon. Im said he “expected” Kim to be there.

Moon himself said he expects to focus on the bilateral ties between the countries, not external factors like North Korea’s relationships with China and the United States.

“What I seek to obtain is peace. What I seek is not a temporary change that may be decided by international conditions, but irreversible and lasting peace that will literally not shake despite how international conditions change,” Moon told reporters on Monday. “What we need to this end is mutual trust. I have set holding as much discussion as possible with Chairman Kim Jong-un as the objective of the upcoming meeting.”

The president noted that family reunifications were high on his priority list, including the establishment of a “permanent meeting facility,” Yonhap reports, where the two Koreas will allow relatives to visit with each other after decades of separation.

He did describe improving Pyongyang-Washington ties as a secondary goal of his meeting: “The first [objective] is to remove the tension and possibility of armed conflicts … between the South and the North, and to reduce fears of war. The second is to promote U.S.-North Korea talks aimed at denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Moon also said he hoped to see President Trump meet with Kim again. The two met for the first time, the first such meeting between an American president and a North Korean communist dictator, in Singapore in June.

Moon is expected to travel to New York following his visit to Pyongyang to attend the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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