The Koreas: Kim to Kim

All being well, on 12 June, South Korea’s President Kim Dae-jung will travel to Pyongyang to meet North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-il. This will be the first summit meeting since two separate states – the Republic of Korea (ROK), south of the then 38th parallel, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north – were proclaimed in 1948, three years after the ‘temporary’ partition of the peninsula by America and the Soviet Union.

The World Today Published 1 June 2000 Updated 27 October 2020 5 minute READ

Aidan Foster-Carter

Honorary Senior Research Fellow in sociology and modern Korea, Leeds University

This encounter has been a long time coming. Six years ago, two other Kims were due to be the ice-breakers. In what was possibly the most crucial recent intervention in international affairs by a private citizen, former US president Jimmy Carter flew to Pyongyang in June 1994 and persuaded Kim Il-sung to back away from confrontation over the nuclear issue – which, we now know, came perilously close to war.

He also brokered a summit between Kim and the then President of the South, Kim Young-sam. But on 8 July, two weeks before the meeting, the Great Leader died. Inept reaction in Seoul put relations back into their usual freeze.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.