North Korea’s communist dictator Kim Jong-un sent “warm greetings” to outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in cementing a mutual “deep trust” in each other, Pyongyang’s state propaganda arms revealed on Friday.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) claimed that Moon initially sent a private letter to Kim, to which the dictator was happy to respond. Moon, of the far-left Democratic Party, made negotiations with the Kim regime a priority of his tenure and visited North Korea, unprecedented for a South Korean president, on multiple occasions. Moon also repeatedly called for an end to the 72-year-old Korean War but was unable to secure a peace treaty.
Moon’s presidential term ends on May 10, when conservative President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol is set to be inaugurated.
“Upon receiving a personal letter from Moon Jae In on April 20, Kim Jong Un sent his reply letter on Thursday. The top leaders of the north and the south of Korea [sic] exchanged best regards in the letters,” KCNA revealed on Friday. North Korea does not capitalize “South” in South Korea because it considers the South Korean government a rogue separatist entity and its territory rightfully the property of the Kim regime.
“Referring to the efforts made by the top leaders of the north and the south for peace of the Korean Peninsula and the north-south cooperation in the difficult situation so far, Moon Jae In in his letter expressed the will to make the north-south joint declarations the foundation for the reunification even after his retirement,” KCNA reported. “Recollecting that the top leaders of the north and the south made public the historic joint declarations giving hope for the future to the entire nation, Kim Jong Un appreciated the pains and effort taken by Moon Jae In for the great cause of the nation until the last days of his term of office.”
“The exchange of the personal letters between the top leaders of the north and the south is an expression of their deep trust,” KCNA emphasized.
The Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae), the South Korean presidential office, confirmed that the exchange occurred shortly after the KCNA report appeared. Moon’s office also offered journalists some quotes from the letters, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
“Holding the hands of Chairman Kim, I took one clear step that would change the fate of the Korean Peninsula,” Moon reportedly wrote. “The era of confrontation should be overcome with dialogue.”
Moon appeared to be referring to their in-person meetings in North Korea. Moon met Kim in person on three occasions: twice in the border “peace village” of Panmunjom and once in Pyongyang. Moon visited Pyongyang in 2018 and received unprecedented honors for a South Korean leader, including a mandatory communist parade in his honor and the privilege of addressing members of the Pyongyang elite in a speech.
Kim also took Moon and his wife to the summit of Mount Paektu, a mountain of spiritual significance for all Koreans that Moon had repeatedly said in public he hoped to one day see. In the North, Mount Paektu plays a major role in the communist Kim cult, as it claims that the founder and “eternal president” of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, was born there.
The meetings resulted in no significant policy changes between the two Koreas. In 2020, North Korea blew up the “joint liaison office” that Kim and Moon had agreed to establish in 2018.
In his letter this week, Moon urged Kim to seek friendship with the United States, Yonhap reported, citing presidential spokesperson Park Kyung-mee.
Kim, Seoul officials claimed, applauded Moon for “indelible achievements” during his tenure.
“Though much is left desired, my belief remains unchanged that if the South and the North pour sincerity in based on efforts made so far, inter-Korean relations can move forward as much as one wants,” Kim reportedly wrote.
The letter exchange, and its presentation in KCNA, continue what has become a tradition in Pyongyang of Kim Jong-un making friendly gestures and taking the lead on diplomacy while sister Kim Yo-jong threatens and berates the free world. In early April, less than a month before the “expression of deep trust,” Kim Yo-jong issued public comments threatening to use nuclear weapons to attack South Korea.
“In case [South Korea] opts for military confrontation with us, our nuclear combat force will have to inevitably carry out its duty,” Kim proclaimed in the pages of state media. “A dreadful attack will be launched and the [South Korean] army will have to face a miserable fate little short of total destruction and ruin.”
The younger Kim’s message appeared to be directed not at Moon, but at Yoon, a conservative who has vowed to bring Seoul once again closer to Washington after Moon insisted on improving ties with North Korea and China. North Korea and China are still technically at war with South Korea and the United States, as neither side has signed a Korean War peace treaty. Active hostilities ended with an armistice agreement in 1953.
The North Korean defense apparatus has also made moves apparently meant to intimidate Yoon into complicity. Kim Jong-un starred in a set of strange images published in March showing him in front of what North Korean media claimed was a “new-type” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), wearing a leather jacket and posing sternly. Satellite and on-the-ground reports both indicate that the Kim regime has also resumed activities at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Center, which has hosted all six of North Korea’s known nuclear tests. North Korean authorities claimed to have destroyed the site in 2018.