The leaders of North and South Korea are to hold a summit for only the second time in their history. The last such meeting was seven years ago – since then the South Korean leadership has changed, and so has the political climate. President Roh Moo-hyun will meet North Korea’s Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang at the end of the month. The two sides remain technically at war, and diplomats were keen to talk up the significance of the event. But some analysts believe its real value may be in boosting the South Korean government ahead of the country’s presidential election in December – it is currently trailing the opposition in the polls.
Ordinary Koreans are less cynical. “So far relations between the two Koreas have been handled by other powerful countries around us, so I think we need to have our own way to resolve things too,” said one man. Another woman added: “I hope the two countries will be reunited soon, so that we can be one country, and we can start to visit each other soon.”
The last summit opened the way for relatives in the communist north to be reunited with their families from the south. Many had not seen each other since the Korean peninsula was divided in 1953.