Jokes, drinks and non-working cars on last day

Joong Ang Daily
Kim Soe-jung

President Roh Moo-hyun’s two-night, three-day visit to North Korea concluded with a friendly luncheon with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il followed later by enthusiastic cheering on the streets.

After signing a declaration at 1 p.m. yesterday, Roh and Kim dined together for about two hours at Paekhwawon State Guest House, clinking glasses, sipping wine and having a friendly conversation.

“President Kim Dae-jung also sat on this seat,” Kim said to Roh, sitting next to him at a round table.

“There have been reports that I have diabetes or heart problems but that’s not true at all,” Kim said.

“There have been reports about even my slightest movements. I think they are novelists, not journalists,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience. “But it does not feel bad to be widely covered.”

Roh and Kim said goodbye to each other about 3:15 p.m. at the front door of the guest house. “This is it,” said Kim. “Take care,” the two leaders said to each other.

Roh left the guest house where he stayed during the visit after leaving a message in the guestbook reading, “Thank you for the warm welcome. I appreciate it.”

Before the luncheon, Roh and First Lady Kwon Yang-sook visited an auto plant in Nampo city, about a 50-minute drive from Pyongyang. The plant produces about 1,000 vehicles per year, with 216 employees.

Roh and Kwon got in a sedan called “Junma,” manufactured with auto parts from South Korea’s Ssangyong Motors, and started the car. But the car did not move. Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo helped the president, but the car still did not move.

After the 20-minute visit to the plant, Roh went to a memorial tower to commemorate Seohaegapmun, a seawall built in 1986.

He wrote, “North Korean people are great,” at the guestbook there.

After the luncheon, Roh attended a ceremony to plant a pine tree he had brought from the South at a botanical garden in Pyongyang.

Kim Yong-nam, the nominal head of the communist country, and Roh scattered soil from Mount Halla in the South and Mount Paektu in the North around the root of the tree. They watered it with water from lakes in both mountains.

Roh left Pyongyang amidst cheering from the city residents carrying pink azalea bouquets.

On his way home, Roh visited the Kaesong Industrial Complex for the first time as the country’s president.

He arrived back in Seoul after 9 p.m. last night.


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