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[Newsmaker] Why did N. Korea agree to live broadcasting of inter-Korean summit?

On April 27, the world will be able to watch North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un cross the military demarcation line and shake hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

North Korea‘s agreement Wednesday to broadcast live key events of the upcoming inter-Korean summit is taken as an indication that Kim, the young leader of the isolated country, seeks to shed the negative image of his regime and show the world that he is the leader of a normal country.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju. (Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju. (Yonhap)

Twelve officials from the two Koreas held working-level talks on the North Korean side of Panmunjeom on Wednesday. They reached a general agreement on matters related to protocol, security, and media coverage, according to the presidential office.

Moon and Kim are set to hold what would be a third inter-Korean summit on the South Korean side of Panmunjeom, which is expected to pave the way for Kim’s proposed meeting with the US President Donald Trump in May or in early June.

“We also agreed to show key events of the historical South-North Korea summit through live broadcasting, starting with the first handshake of the two leaders,” said Kwun Hyuk-ki, a member of South Korea’s delegation to Wednesday‘s talks with North Korea and the director of the presidential press center.

North Korea “willingly” accepted South Korea’s offer to live broadcast key events of the inter-Korean summit, an official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

“I think Kim Jong-un is seeking to use the inter-Korean summit as a chance to improve his image from a reclusive and tyrannical leader to a leader of a normal country and present himself as one of the world’s leaders,” said Cho Han-bum, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

“He is aware that the world’s attention is on him.”

Whether North Korea will also broadcast the inter-Korean summit live is unclear, however.

“There is a possibility that North Korea may also broadcast live the events of the inter-Korean summit, probably up until the leaders make the opening remarks,” he said. “It is also possible that the North will edit out some scenes it doesn’t want the public to watch and broadcast the recording later.”

Another sign of Kim trying to present himself as a leader of a normal country would be whether his wife Ri Sol-ju will accompany him. She accompanied Kim on his visit to China last month and received a warm welcome from China’s President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan.

A Cheong Wa Dae official declined to comment on whether Ri will accompany Kim for the inter-Korean summit, saying, “It is a matter we cannot mention yet.”

Moon and Kim are expected to discuss North Korea’s path to denuclearization, ways to build a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and to improve inter-Korean ties during the summit. South Korean officials confirmed Wednesday that the two Koreas will discuss a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice and left the Koreas technically still at war.