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CNN Today

North Korean Leader Sets Tone for First Summit with Grand Spectacles

Aired June 14, 2000 - 1:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The leaders of the two Koreas wrapped up their remarkably good-natured summit today with a promise to act more like neighbors, and less like mortal enemies. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the South Korean president Kim Dae-jung signed an agreement aimed at boosting political, economic and family ties, and easing military tensions.

They also agreed on a reciprocal summit in South Korea, but they didn't set a date for that. They did calm the fears of millions of Koreans on both sides of the border.

But CNN's Mike Chinoy reports, radical changes are not on the horizon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kim Jong Il's remarks and demeanor served to reinforce perhaps the key North Korean theme at this summit: that he's in charge of a country that has not gone into this meeting on bended knees.

A closer look at the summit's first day offers a graphic illustration of how North Korea uses this kind of symbolic diplomacy. The goose-stepping honor guards at Pyongyang Airport appeared clearly designed to shown the armed forces were loyal to Kim Jong Il, as was the sword-bearing soldier who read out all of Kim's titles while the South Korean president looked on.

Then there were the hundreds of thousands of well-wishers, each waving artificial flowers in only two colors, red or pink: red, the color of the Kimjongilia, a hybrid begonia, which all North Koreans are encouraged to grow to better cultivate their loyalty to Kim Jong Il; and pink, for the Kimilsungia, an orchid named in honor of Kim's father, the late president Kim Il Sung.

The intended message: while the South Korean president is welcome in Pyongyang, the people of North Korea are firmly behind their own leader and system. Another interesting and carefully scripted moment: the motorcade stopped, Kim Jong Il got out with hardly a bodyguard in sight, a deliberate signal that his position at home is secure, a sense of confidence reinforced by his surprisingly self-deprecating humor. (on camera): All this, analysts say, contains a significant lesson about dealing with North Korea: that symbolism and atmosphere are critically important on this first-ever summit, perhaps even more important than any substance. And if the mood is right, the substantive questions could, over the long run, become easier to resolve.

Mike Chinoy, CNN, Seoul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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