IN THE NEWS #433 - Korean Leaders Meet

By Caty Weaver

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

This week the leaders of North and South Korea met in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. It was the first meeting of leaders from the two countries since Korea was divided after World War Two.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung signed an agreement on several issues. They agreed to work together for peaceful reunification. The agreement also says North and South Korea will exchange groups of family members separated since the Korean war. Millions of people fled North Korea during and after the war. North Korea generally has not permitted visits between members of divided families. As a result, many family members have not seen each other in fifty years.

The exchanges are to take place around August fifteenth. That is the time when Koreans celebrate the end of Japanese colonial rule. The agreement also calls for settling humanitarian issues as soon as possible. These include the return of Communist prisoners who have completed their jail terms in South Korea.

The agreement also calls for the South and North to seek a balanced development of their national economies. And, it says they will try to build trust in each other by increasing cooperation in social, cultural, sports, health and environmental areas. This goal is expected to mean more aid for North Korea, which has suffered from years of severe food shortages.

The final part of the document deals with how to carry out the agreement. It says the two sides will hold a discussion between government officials at an early date. And the agreement says Kim Jong-il has accepted an invitation from Kim Dae-jung to visit Seoul.

Officially the two countries are still at war. In June of Nineteen-Fifty, North Korea invaded South Korea. It took three years for American-led United Nations forces to end the invasion. The two Koreas have never signed a peace treaty. Yet their leaders showed unexpected friendliness during their meeting.

The North Korean leader surprised many people when he went to the airport Tuesday to greet the South Korean president on his three-day visit. Rarely has Kim Jong-il been seen in public. But he showed humor and social skill. Kim Jong-ill said he knows people think he never leaves North Korea. He said he has made many secret trips to countries like China and Indonesia. In his words, "I have been here and there without people knowing."

For Kim Dae-jung, a measure of reaction to his part in the historic meeting appeared Friday in a South Korean newspaper. A public opinion study showed that ninety-seven percent of South Koreans consider the talks a success.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English