Ri Sol-ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, joined her husband Friday on the southern side of the inter-Korean border for a summit dinner hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
She crossed the military demarcation line in the Demilitarized Zone into South Korean territory by car at about 6:17 p.m., right after President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim signed a historic joint declaration after their summit talks at the truce border village of Panmunjom.
Ri, wearing a bright apricot Western-style attire, was greeted by South Korean first lady Kim Jung-sook, who wore a sky-blue coat, upon her arrival at the Peace House building on the southern side of the village for the welcome dinner.
With a bright friendly smile, Kim guided Ri into the building where Moon and Kim were waiting on the lobby floor where they had a brief conversation together.
"We built a strong friendship in a day," Moon said, speaking to Ri. The "we" he referred to were North Korean leader Kim and himself.
Ri, in response, congratulated him on the success of the summit. "I was really glad when my husband told me after returning from the talks in the morning that he had sincere and good talks with President Moon and that the summit went well."
The South's first lady Kim said her heart pounded when she saw the leaders talk casually on a bridge in the DMZ in the afternoon on television. South Korean televisions broadcast live the first summit between the two leaders.
"I saw it as I was traveling," she answered when the northern leader showed his surprise at the fast spread of the news on the summit in South Korea, saying: "Was it already on TV?"
Kim Jong-un then smiled and said: "We went away to avoid the camera, but it was all shown!"
"I really enjoyed it. So I had the thought that there will only be prosperity (on the Korean Peninsula) in the future," Kim Jung-sook answered, adding that she also saw the leaders planting a tree together on TV.
"If it looked that way, I bet the summit was a success," the Pyongyang leader answered in an expression of his satisfaction.
The meeting was the first-ever encounter between first leadies of the two Koreas.
Two former South Korean first ladies -- Lee Hee-ho and Kwon Yang-sook -- traveled with their husbands -- Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun -- to visit Pyongyang for the two previous inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, though they had no chance to meet the spouse of then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Kim Ok, known as the late leader's fourth wife, often accompanied him during his trips to China and Russia but not formally as his wife. Her name was never mentioned in the North's state media reports covering the trips.
Ri's visit comes amid her growing diplomatic presence as first lady in recent months.
She was seen alongside Kim when he made his surprise diplomatic debut in a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing last month. She also accompanied Kim during the dinner he hosted for a South Korean delegation on March 5. On April 1, she attended the first performance in Pyongyang by a South Korean art troupe together with her husband.
On April 14, the North's state media officially recognized Ri as "revered first lady" when she made her first public appearance without her spouse to attend a performance by the National Ballet of China in Pyongyang. Ri used to be identified by the title "comrade."
Analysts have said that Ri's increased public role comes as Kim seeks to improve the image of his reclusive country as a normal state. (Yonhap)
Lee Sam-sun firstname.lastname@example.org
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