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N.K. leader demonstrates humility with frank talk about economy

2018/09/18 18:58

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SEOUL, Sept. 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's propaganda scribes claim the communist nation is a great nuclear weapons power that can crush the United States at any moment. But its leader Kim Jong-un humbly acknowledged that, despite nuclear bombs, the North has a backward economy.

Kim's humility and frankness was well displayed in a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang on Tuesday. After escorting Moon and first lady Kim Jung-sook into the North's state guesthouse, Kim said it's far from the world's best.

"Mr. President visits many countries around the world. Compared with developed countries, we are a bit shabby," Kim said during a brief standing chat with Moon.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shake hands during a meeting in Pyongyang on Sept. 18, 2018. (Yonhap) South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shake hands during a meeting in Pyongyang on Sept. 18, 2018. (Yonhap)

Kim also said he has long felt sorry that he didn't treat Moon properly when the South's president visited the North Korean side of the border village of Panmunjom for their second summit meeting in May, following their first summit on the South Korean side of the village in April.

"So we've waited for today and did our best to prepare this lodging and itinerary. This may be a low standard, but I hope you will accept this with our heart," Kim said.

It's not easy for the leader of a country, especially a totalitarian nation like the North, to acknowledge shortfalls of his country. The North's leader may be using such humility and candidness to underline the point that his denuclearization commitment is genuine.

It was not the first time Kim has talked frankly about the North's decrepit economy and infrastructure.

During April's first summit with Moon, Kim said he wanted to invite Moon to the North but that he was "concerned that our transportation (infrastructure) is inadequate."

   Kim also talked about how developed the South was, referring to what he heard from visitors to the Winter Olympics in the South's city of PyeongChang earlier this year.

"A visitor to PyeongChang said the high-speed train was very good," Kim said of the bullet train services that the South ran to the Olympic venue. "Showing the North to people from the South would be very embarrassing."

   On Tuesday, Kim also came out to the airport to greet Moon and threw him an elaborate welcoming ceremony and car procession through the streets of Pyongyang, which were lined with tens of thousands of people waving paper flowers.

South Korean officials said Moon is the first foreign head of state to hold a summit with the North's leader in Pyongyang and the first foreign guest that the North's leader greeted at the airport.

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