Meticulous planning has gone into Friday’s historic meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In — even down to where Kim will take a piss.
Everything from the size of the negotiating table to a special noodle machine sent from Pyongyang has been arranged, including the use of a portable toilet just for the North Korean despot.
At 9:30 Friday morning, Kim will walk across the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two countries flanked by nine of his highest-ranking officials, making him the first North Korean leader to cross the border since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
The summit, which seemed impossible less than a year ago, has increased expectations across South Korea over a possible peace treaty, with local governments and civic groups flying so-called Korean Unification flags ahead of the meeting.
In an effort to ensure nothing is left to chance, South Korean officials have rehearsed the moment the two leaders will meet three times in the last two days.
“They tried to check every little detail, such as where other delegates will stand when the two leaders meet," Kim Eui Kyeom, a spokesman for the presidential office, told the Yonhap news agency Thursday.
“It is unsurprising that Moon is taking such steps to make Kim and his entourage feel comfortable,” John Hemmings, Asia Director at the Henry Jackson Society, a British foreign policy think tank, told VICE News. “The fact that the meeting is occurring in the South is already a great concession from Kim’s perspective. It may fall into the category of an 'unpleasant necessity' to bring about peace on the Peninsula, thus avoiding a conflagration that would cost millions more lives.”
The detailed preparations ahead of the summit follow months of effort by Moon and his officials to woo Kim and bring him to the negotiating table, but the strategy still carries potential pitfalls.
“The public and the political opposition will criticize Moon for a failed appeasement policy, so there are risks here for Moon’s accommodation strategy toward North Korea,” Baohui Zhang, director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, told VICE News.
Once the North Korean leader’s motorcade arrives at Panmungak, the main building on the North Korean side of the DMZ, he will walk across the border to meet his South Korean counterpart.
This moment will be highly significant, given the two previous leader summits in 2000 and 2007 were both held in Pyongyang.
After shaking hands — a moment that will be broadcast live around the world — both leaders will jointly inspect a South Korean honor guard, before negotiations officially start at 10:30 a.m. at Peace House, a South Korean facility located south of the border.
Ahead of the talks, the South Korean government has conducted an extensive renovation of the building, which was constructed in 1989 and has been the site of many past inter-Korean talks.
As part of the renovation, a custom-made, oval-shaped table that’s exactly 2,018 millimeters across the middle has been built, highlighting the year of the historic summit. The table is designed to look like two bridges merged into one.
As well as the formal arrangements, the personal tastes of the leaders, in particular Kim, have been pored over by the organizers.
According to the South Korean-based Daily NK, Kim always travels with one or more portable toilets — for national security reasons rather than a weak bladder.
“Rather than using a public restroom, the leader of North Korea has a personal toilet that follows him around when he travels,” Lee Yun Keol, who worked in a North Korean Guard Command unit before defecting in 2005, told the Washington Post. “The leader’s excretions contain information about his health status, so they can’t be left behind.”
What will be discussed?
According to local media, there are three items on Friday’s agenda: denuclearization, creating a peace regime, and improving inter-Korean ties.
Those same reports suggest the second and third items have already been negotiated and the results agreed to. As for denuclearization, that remains a thorny subject given that Kim’s definition of the term likely differs significantly from Moon’s.
Kim will be accompanied by nine key aides on his trip, made up of senior party, military and government officials, including Kim Yong Nam, the nominal head of state, and Kim Yo Jong, Kim's younger sister.
Ri Myong Su, the chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army, and Pak Yong Sik, the minister of North Korea's armed forces, will also be in attendance, suggesting that denuclearization will at least be discussed.
It is still unclear if Ri Sol Ju, Kim’s wife, will accompany him on the trip.
What’s on the menu?
Once the meeting ends, the leaders will move to a specially constructed banquet room within Peace House for a 10-course meal that has been carefully chosen to appeal to the North Korean leader.
Infused with political significance, one of the appetizers is a potato rosti, a Swiss potato fritter that’s a reference the North Korean leader's time at a boarding school in Switzerland. This will also be reflected in a dessert entitled Memories of Swiss, which features Swiss chocolate, macaroons and cheesecake.
The leaders will enjoy roasted John Dory caught in the port city of Busan, the hometown of Moon. There will also be barbecued beef from the ranch in Seosan belonging to Chung Ju Yung, the late founder of Hyundai Group, who raised cattle to send to North Korea as a peace offering in 1998.
The main course will be “naengmyeon” or cold buckwheat noodles, made by the head chef of Pyongyang’s famous Okryugwan restaurant, who will travel to the Peace House to make the dish, together with a noodle-making machine to produce fresh noodles.
Cover image: South Korean activists wearing masks of South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (R) pose for a photo during a rally to support the upcoming inter-Korean summit, at Gwanghwamun square in Seoul on April 25, 2018. (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)