North Korea’s reclusive leader has welcomed the South Korean President for only the second summit ever between the two states, who remain technically at war.
Roh Moo-Hyun has billed the staged-managed visit as a chance to ease hostility between the two Koreas, divided since the end of World War Two.
But critics say the trip is more about improving his own image ahead of elections than tackling the sensitive issues of nuclear weapons and human rights abuses.
An unsmiling Kim Jong-il and Roh shared a cool greeting then barely spoke to each other, a sharp contrast to the effusive welcome given to the previous South Korean President in 2000.
North Korea’s No. 2 leader hosted a dinner for Roh which Kim did not attend.
Meanwhile dozens of South Korean conservatives demonstrated against the visit in Seoul, trying to burn North Korea’s national flag.
They claim Roh is being deceived as to the true face of the North, which fails to keep promises made to neighbouring countries.