South Korean trust in North jumps after feel-good summit

South Koreans’ trust in Kim Jong-un sees a huge surge after successful summit

  •  South Korean trust in Kim Jong-Un up following meeting with Moon Jae-In
  • Nearly 65 per cent now believe North will denuclearise and keep peace
  • This is an increase from 14.7 per cent before Friday’s summit at the border 

South Korean trust in North Korea has surged since last week’s feel-good summit at which their leaders declared an end to hostilities and to work towards denuclearisation of the peninsula.

A new survey found that 64.7 per cent now believe the North will denuclearise and keep peace – up from 14.7 per cent before the meeting of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met South Korean President Moon Jae-in. 

It comes as US President Donald Trump suggested that his summit with Kim Jong Un may also be held in the border village of the Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas. 

Raising the bar: Kim Jong Un, left, and President Moon Jae-in raise their hands after signing a joint statement promising peace and de-nuclearisation during the summit on Friday

‘Numerous countries are being considered for the MEETING, but would Peace House/Freedom House, on the Border of North & South Korea, be a more Representative, Important and Lasting site than a third party country? Just asking!’ Trump tweeted Monday. 

It is possible that the U.S. President is hoping to repeat the success and approval of Friday’s summit, which has seen given many South Koreans a whole new view of Kim Jong-Un.

Many said they were struck by the live TV images during the summit of a smiling and joking North Korean dictator.

Never before had they seen a self-deprecating and witty side to Kim, who was heard admitting that his country’s train system was inferior and promising he wouldn’t wake up Moon any more with early morning missile launches.

Kim seemed markedly different from former North Korean leaders – his father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung, people on the street in Seoul said on Monday.

Over the Moon: President Moon is applauded by his senior secretaries during a meeting with them at the presidential office in Seoul on Monday on his first day back after the summit

‘Denuclearising is definitely possible,’ said 41-year-old Kim Jin-han. 

‘He talked about his country’s weaknesses, such as the infrastructure. He was very open about that. This is very different from the previous leaders. So I think he is ready to wholly give up nuclear weapons.’ 

A euphoric mood enveloped the presidential Blue House on Monday as Moon was greeted by cheers and a standing ovation by scores of aides and staff.

‘I am confident a new era of peace will unfold on the Korean peninsula,’ Moon told his aides, asking them to quickly follow up on the agreements made in Friday’s declaration.

The two sides are technically still at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty.

Moon’s approval rating after the summit rose to 70 percent, Realmeter said, its highest since mid-January.

Moon also told aides that U.S. President Donald Trump deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to end the standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme, a South Korean official said.

‘President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize. What we need is only peace,’ Moon told aides, according to a Blue House official who briefed the press.

In January, Moon had said Trump ‘deserves big credit’ for bringing about the inter-Korean talks, saying it may have come from ‘U.S.-led sanctions and pressure.’

Friday’s final declaration, however, leaves many questions unanswered, particularly what ‘denuclearisation’ means or how that will be achieved. Much hinges on Kim’s upcoming summit with Trump, who said it could happen in the next three to four weeks.

Any deal with the United States will require that North Korea demonstrate ‘irreversible’ steps to shutting down its nuclear weapons programme, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

A flurry of diplomacy is unfolding in the lead-up to that meeting, with China saying it will send the government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, to North Korea on Wednesday and Thursday this week. China is the North’s main ally.

More changes: South Korea says it will remove propaganda-broadcasting loudspeakers from the tense border with North Korea (file photo)

And over the weekend, South Korea’s spy chief visited Tokyo to brief Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In initial small steps towards reconciliation, South Korea said on Monday it would remove loudspeakers that blared propaganda across the border, while North Korea said it would shift its clocks to align with its southern neighbour.

South Korea turned off the loudspeakers that broadcast a mixture of news, Korean pop songs and criticism of the North Korean regime as a goodwill gesture ahead of the summit. It will begin removing the speakers on Tuesday.

‘We see this as the easiest first step to build military trust,’ South Korean defence ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo said. ‘We are expecting the North’s implementation.’

North Korea will shift its time zone 30 minutes earlier to align with South Korea, starting May 5, state media reported on Monday.

The KCNA dispatch said the decision came after Kim found it ‘a painful wrench’ to see two clocks showing different times on a wall at the summit venue.

The northern time zone was created in 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule after World War Two. South Korea and Japan are in the same time zone, nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Kim also told Moon during the summit he would soon invite experts and journalists from the United States and South Korea when the country dismantles its Punggye-ri nuclear testing site, the Blue House said on Sunday.

North Korea has conducted all six of its nuclear tests at the site, a series of tunnels dug into the mountains in the northeastern part of the country. Some experts and researchers have speculated that the most recent – and by far largest – blast in September had rendered the entire site unusable.

But Kim said there were two additional, larger tunnels that remain ‘in very good condition’ beyond the existing one, which experts believe may have collapsed.

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