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Thursday, 15 June, 2000, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Korea: No going back
The two Korean leaders shake hands at Pyongyang airport
The two Kims meet for the first time
By BBC News Online's Emma Batha

The historic handshake between the two Korean leaders on the tarmac of Pyongyang airport moved many on the peninsula to tears.
Kim Jong-il and Kim Dae-jung at the airport
Kim Dae-jung was taken aback by the welcome

After five decades of bitter hostility, it represented hopes that the two Cold War rivals might one day be reunited.

The South's President Kim Dae-jung and the North's reclusive dictator Kim Jong-il had never even spoken before, never mind met.

But by the end of the summit they were pledging to work towards reunification.

We are one people - I love you all

President Kim Dae-jung on arrival in Pyongyang

The division between the two Koreas, which split more than 50 years ago, is far stronger than that between the two Germanys ever was.

But there is no going back now - the world's last Stalinist state has embarked on the road to ending its isolation.

'Secretive ogre'

For South Koreans, the television coverage of the summit has put a human face on the feared totalitarian leader across the border.

Kim Jong-il, known as Dear Leader to his people, has a reputation as a reclusive playboy ogre in the South.
motorcade
The leaders held hands on the drive into the capital

But television footage showed him to be courteous man with a very ready smile. He appeared relaxed, spontaneous, even garrulous.

In the North too, the image of the two leaders chatting and shaking hands will mean the propaganda machine can no longer demonise Kim Dae-jung as it has in the past.

Holding hands

Kim Jong-il, who rarely appears in public, amazed everyone when he turned up at the airport to personally greet his rival with a lavish welcome ceremony.
Kim Jong-il at farewell party
Kim Jong-il's relaxed style surprised everyone

Standing side by side the two Kims made an odd couple.

Kim Jong-il is the son of the founder of the world's first communist dynasty, while Kim Dae-jung is the fighter for democracy who was once sentenced to death for sedition.

But their smiles looked genuine and they held hands as they were whisked back to Pyongyang in a stretch limousine.

They say as far as drinking goes, I'm a better drinker than Kim Dae-jung - anyway it's a good thing

Kim Jong-il in jocular mood at the farewell lunch

At the summit venue, Kim Jong-il continued the surprises, asking to dispense with protocol and even cracking jokes about his reputation as a recluse and his rumoured fondness for a tipple.

Looking at the pictures it was easy to forget that North and South Korea are still technically at war, as they have been since 1953 when their conflict ended without a peace agreement.

Adulation

For many people, the television footage which came out of North Korea, also provided a fascinating first glimpse inside the world's most secretive country.
Koreans cheer their president
Thousands of Koreans lined the roads to cheer

The roads from the airport to Pyongyang were lined with more than half a million hysterically cheering Koreans waving pink flowers.

The crowds - the women in traditional billowing folk gowns - seemed indefatigable in their manic chanting of their leader's name.

But the almost comical adulation was a sinister reminder that North Korea is a repressive regime.

Economy

Since their division, South Korea has developed into one of Asia's most affluent countries, while the North has slipped into dire poverty.

The carefully choreographed welcome for the South Koreans masked an economy in tatters.
Sunrise over the Korean border
A new dawn in Korean relations?

Aid agencies have estimated that up to two million people could have died in the late 1990s and the country is now reliant on food aid.

But these were not scenes President Kim Dae-jung's party was ever likely to see.

Instead they were whisked around showpiece kindergartens, embroidery workshops and cultural performances.

South Korean journalists hoping to find out what their northern cousins really thought of the summit were barred from leaving their hotel on Wednesday, in a further reminder of Kim Jong-il's iron rule.

But what they were allowed to film still showed just how far the North has fallen behind the South.

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13 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Pyongyang, I love you
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