Story highlights

Sit-down talks follow calls on Pyongyang-Seoul hotline last week

Talks held at Peace House on the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea

Seoul, South Korea CNN  — 

Negotiators from South and North Korea arrived at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) early Tuesday to sit down for the first time since December 2015, after a hotline between the two technically-still-at-war nations reconnected last week.

The meeting is taking place at Peace House in the Joint Security Area, also known as Panmunjom or “truce village,” the only part of the 250 kilometer (160 mile), heavily fortified demilitarized zone where North and South Korean soldiers stand face-to-face.

Talks began at 10 a.m. Seoul time (8 p.m. ET Monday).

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be able to monitor the talks in real time, and intervene if necessary. Both leaders will have a hotline at their disposal, direct to the Peace House.

However, the South Korea’s Unification Ministry says only Moon will be able to watch as events unfold.

“While President Moon can monitor CCTVs and discussions in real time, the North Korean side can only listen as the live CCTV feed is not provided to the North Korean side,” a spokeswoman said.

Opening remarks

The talks began in good spirits, with representatives laughing while entering the conference room where the day’s talks were to be held. The principal players, South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, and his North Korean counterpart, Ri Son Gwon, entered side by side.

Discussing the cold weather, Ri said that “it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the inter Korean relationship is frozen more than the nature’s weather,” according to pool notes translated by CNN.

He said it has been 18 years since a 2000 declaration of detente, adding that “we officials from both nations should approach these talks with sincerity and diligence, so we can give a valuable result, the first gift of this new year, to the entire Korean people who are watching us with a great anticipation.”