KGOU

What's Next After Koreas Summit

Apr 28, 2018
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(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Korean).

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

That's North Korean state television announcing the joint agreement between North and South Korea. The deal was struck between Kim Jong Un and South Korea's Moon Jae-in after a day-long summit inside the demilitarized zone. They pledged to ease tensions, work toward a permanent peace treaty and, quote, "complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula." Elise Hu's been covering all of this and joins us from Seoul. Elise, thanks - busy week.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: Busy, indeed - a lot's happened.

SIMON: All these words we've been using this week - historic, high risk - how is it being - how's it playing out there in South Korea?

HU: Overall, in similar ways - it's going over pretty well. This summit seems to have gone off smoothly. It was highly choreographed. But still, South Koreans were surprised to see some of these big, made-for-TV moments. They know, obviously, it happened. South Korea's a nation of real big news consumers. And a few Korean newspapers actually busted their front pages with just one single image - no text - of the two leaders holding hands at the border. Headlines read beyond division. Another one said a step into the future. And there has, though, we should mention, been some opposition. The far-right conservatives staged a small protest today in the center of Seoul. This party supports more of an antagonistic stance toward North Korea.

SIMON: Elise, so far, it's pledges, not any real plans. That may or may not come later. But what - if North Korea is serious about giving up nuclear weapons, what do they want for it? Do we know?

HU: Not yet. I mean, we can make some assumptions, obviously, because Kim Jong Un's objective all along was to create a strong nuclear deterrent to protect his country from attack but also to protect his regime from being deposed. And so that is one sort of working assumption. His twin objective since taking power was building an economy, so his country could function more like a normal one. This year, he has really pivoted more resources to the economy. But because of all the sanctions, improving the economy is tough. It's going to require foreign investment and trade. That's going to be something that he wants.

SIMON: And, of course, the Trump-Kim summit comes next month or in early June, we're told. There are some major issues involved for the United States here particularly - I mean, it might result in even withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea.

HU: North Korea has previously wanted to see a withdrawal of U.S. troops and has demanded that in a lot of its state media. Ahead of the summit, it said, you know what? We're going to drop that demand. And so that was a real surprise to a lot of observers. But you are right that the issue between - the security issue between the U.S. and North Korea is a lot thornier than some of the inter-Korean issues that were talked about yesterday. But Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, has really teed this up for Trump in laying a lot of the groundwork, in drawing Kim out of his country and into the international spotlight this way to expose himself in this way. So the situation is really set up as a foundation for the next phase of negotiations, which, as you mentioned, Scott, is going to be tough.

SIMON: Elise Hu on duty for us in Seoul. Thanks very much for being with us.

HU: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.