North Korea allows S. Korean leader to walk across border


AFP

SEOUL — South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun will walk across the world’s last Cold War frontier this week as he travels for a summit with the North’s reclusive Kim Jong Il, a minister here said Sunday.

He will be the first South Korean leader to do so since the Korean War, half a century ago, after the North agreed to his request.

Roh is to visit Pyongyang by car via the truce border village of Panmunjom for talks with Kim from October 2 to 4 — only the second inter-Korean summit in the six decades since the peninsula was divided.

Due to safety concerns, Roh’s predecessor, Kim Dae-Jung, travelled to the North by air for the first summit in 2000. The South’s Unification Minister, Lee Jae-joung, said Roh and his 13-member entourage would walk across the border in the middle of the demilitarized zone, the symbol of division.

“Walking across the military demarcation line will be a historic and impressive moment,” Lee said, adding Roh would be the first South Korean president to walk over the line.

“I hope this will serve as a historic momentum for solidifying peace on the Korean peninsula.”

Roh plans to unveil a message of peace before walking across the border, according to Yonhap news agency.

In theory, North and South Korea are still at war as the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice and not a peace treaty.

Since the 2000 summit, their Cold War rivalry has given way to increasing economic and humanitarian exchanges but there are tensions along the heavily fortified frontier zone.

Roh has said South Korea wants to start talks on formally ending the state of war with North Korea and to discuss ways of expanding economic exchanges.

About 500 conservative activists marched in Seoul Sunday after a rally opposing the summit, shouting: “Down with dictator Kim Jong-Il.” Minor scuffles broke out.

Meanwhile, the North’s ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun urged Seoul to reject dependence on outside forces, referring to its alliance with Washington.