Korean Leaders Hold 2nd-Ever Summit

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il welcomed South Korea's president to Pyongyang on Tuesday, displaying scant enthusiasm at the start of the second-ever summit between the divided Koreas.

The greeting was a stark contrast to the first North-South summit, in 2000, when Kim greeted then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung with smiles and clasped both his hands tightly in an emotional moment that softened the North Korean strongman's image to South Koreans and the world.

This time, Kim appeared reserved and unemotional, walking slowly and occasionally clapping lightly to encourage the crowd of thousands at the outdoor welcome ceremony, who waved red and pink paper flowers. The North's official Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim was greeted by cheers from citizens "rocking the Earth and sky."

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun appeared to revel in the moment, waving and smiling broadly before reviewing a goose-stepping North Korean military honor guard wielding rifles with bayonets -- part of its million-strong force that faces the South across the world's most heavily armed frontier.

Roh has said his goal at the summit is fostering peace and prosperity between the North and South, which technically remain at war since a 1953 cease-fire halted the Korean War -- despite seven years of warming ties since the first summit.

But Roh has not specifically said what he will propose or seek in return, prompting criticism from conservatives at home that the summit is an ego trip for Roh, seeking to establish a legacy for his unpopular administration, which ends in February.

Both Roh and Kim hope to keep the surging conservatives from winning South Korea's December presidential election, where they hold a sizable lead in opinion polls. The opposition Grand National Party has a more skeptical view of relations with the North, insisting that aid be conditional on reforms.

Earlier during the 200-kilometer journey by road from Seoul, Roh stepped out of his vehicle to walk across the border that divides the Koreas in the center of the demilitarized zone -- the first time any Korean leader has crossed the land border. In the first summit between the Koreas in 2000, the South's Kim flew to Pyongyang.

"This line is a wall that has divided the nation for a half-century. Our people have suffered from too many hardships, and development has been held up due to this wall," Roh said before crossing.

"This line will be gradually erased, and the wall will fall," he said. "I will make efforts to make my walk across the border an occasion to remove the forbidden wall and move toward peace and prosperity."

Upon entering Pyongyang, Roh switched to an open-top car and was joined by the North's No. 2 leader, Kim Yong Nam. Both rode for some 20 minutes through the North's showcase capital, waving to hundreds of thousands of residents who chanted "Reunification of the Fatherland!" and "Welcome!"

This week's summit comes a year after the North conducted its first detonation of a nuclear bomb, catalyzing world opposition to the regime. The explosion, however, soon led to a reversal of Washington's hard-line policy, which has lately led to an improvement in relations between the longtime foes.