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INTRO:  The eyes of much of the world have been 
focused on the North Korean capital of Pyongyang this 
week, where an historic summit is taking place between 
the leaders of North and South Korea. 
We get a sampling of U-S press comment on the summit 
from ___________ in today's U-S Opinion Roundup.
TEXT:  The meeting between North Korean leader Kim 
Jong-Il and South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung could 
spell the beginning of the end of the isolationist 
stance long adhered to by Mr. Kim's father, Kim Il 
Sung.  The summit opened Tuesday as South Korean 
President Kim received what the Los Angeles Times 
described as "a hero's welcome" when he landed at 
Sunan Airport in the North's capital.
TEXT:  One veteran reporter watching with interest is 
Holger Jensen, senior international affairs columnist 
of Denver's Rocky Mountain News.  Just before the 
summit, he suggested guarded optimism, as he compares 
the two nations, and reminds readers of their past 
VOICE:  With American help, South Korea has become one 
of the world's richest nations....  North Korea is one 
of the world's poorest [nations] with a per capita 
income of about one-dollar-fifty cents [U-S] a day.  
Its economy has been devastated by the loss of Soviet 
subsidies and shrinking barter trade with China, edged 
out by the hard currency of South Korea.  Crippling 
fuel shortages cause repeated blackouts in the 
northern capital of Pyongyang.  Industries are running 
at half speed if at all.  Famine has killed an 
estimated two million people in the past five years 
and aid workers report seeing North Koreans eating 
leaves and bark to survive.  Yet despite all signs of 
a looming collapse, North Korea maintains the world's 
fourth-largest standing army and its 10-thousand 
artillery pieces could turn the southern capital of 
Seoul into a sea of fire. ... after a half century of 
unremitting hostility between North and South Korea 
... Washington is by no means hopeful of instant 
rapprochement between North and South.  And Seoul 
expects no major breakthroughs.
TEXT: In Eastern Pennsylvania, Allentown's Morning 
Call describes the conference as "momentous," and 
suggests the "talks are [a] good start for [a] stable 
VOICE:  The historic ... summit is unprecedented, the 
first meeting between the leaders of the two countries 
in the 55 years since the Korean Peninsula was divided 
after World War Two, in the early days of the Cold 
War.  Certainly the enigmatic North Korean government 
remains a serious concern, so the Clinton 
administration is right to be cautiously optimistic as 
the two Korean nations take [small] steps toward one 
another. ///OPT /// ... North Korea has been reaching 
out diplomatically in ways previously unimaginable, 
trying to improve relations with Europe and Japan, in 
addition to the United States and South Korea.  Last 
month, Kim Jong-Il met China's leaders in Beijing and 
next month Vladimir Putin is expected to become the 
first top Russian leader ever to visit North Korea.  
Dialogue and engagement are critical if North Korea is 
ever to change itself from the status of an untrusted 
rogue nation. /// END OPT ///
TEXT:  In the port city of Baltimore, The Sun 
headlines its commentary "Destiny comes to Pyongyang," 
suggesting that the "Summit holds hopes of bringing 
[the] tyrannical North out of desperate poverty and 
isolation.   While, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the 
Star Tribune compares this unlikely event with another 
historic first.
VOICE: South Koreans who watched their leader set foot 
in North Korea Tuesday must have felt the way 
Americans did when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the 
surface of the moon.  In fact, the event may have 
carried more meaning because President Kim Dae-Jung 
carried with him the emotions and hopes of families 
divided for half a century.  Through the lifetimes of 
most in the South, North Korea has been, like the 
moon, impossibly remote even when visible.  /// OPT 
/// ...The summit offers the best reason yet to hope 
that North Korea will live up to its commitments to 
rein in its weapons programs and join the world 
community.  Better still, it may hasten the day when 
the name "Korea' requires no reference to the compass. 
/// END OPT ///
TEXT:  The Chicago Tribune is noting the long and 
cordial handshake the two presidents exchanged at the 
Pyongyang airport, before voicing cautious optimism on 
the substance of the talks.
VOICE:  Where they go from here will be difficult and 
uncertain, but clearly the reclusive, Stalinist regime 
of North Korean President Kim Jong Il is trying to 
ease the isolation of his famine-ravaged hermit 
kingdom and start a cautious process of reconciliation 
with South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung.   For 
democratic South Korea, living across the 38th parallel 
from one of the most dangerous and unpredictable 
regimes in the world, it is also very much in Seoul's 
interest to end the state of war that has existed 
since the 1950-53 Korean War.  ... It is too early to 
talk of normalizing relations, but if North Korea's 
conduct continues to improve, there may be hope for 
ending one of the Cold War's last battles.
TEXT: The Miami Herald tries to explain why this 
summit came about now, after such a long and hostile 
VOICE: North Korea President Kim Jong Il's willingness 
to talk may reflect his desperation for an economic 
stimulus, or it may represent recognition that 
isolationism isn't working.  President Kim Dae-Jung of 
South Korea, whose country is a thriving example of 
capitalism, wisely has dangled the carrot of economic 
assistance.  He also boldly has asserted his vision 
for reconciliation and reunification of the two 
countries.  ... No one should expect these talks to 
result in any dramatic new initiatives.  If they only 
set the stage for further discussions and contact, 
much will have been accomplished.  An entrenched and 
belligerent adversary will have been persuaded to try 
peaceful dialogue.     
      /// REST OPTIONAL ///
TEXT:  In the southeastern United States, 
Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union writes: 
VOICE: ...there is reason for optimism because North 
Korea seems to be shedding its "hermit kingdom" image.  
Its participation in the summit alone is quite 
remarkable since it refused until recently even to 
talk with the South ... Also, Kim Jong-il's regime 
recently opened diplomatic relations with Italy and 
Australia -- and it may soon also exchange ambassadors 
with traditional enemy Japan, which not long ago it 
was threatening to obliterate with nuclear weapons.
TEXT:  The New York Times, calling the meetings "an 
encouraging change in ... relationship," is also 
pleased, but cautious, noting:
VOICE:  Never before have North and South Korea come 
this close to a normal, peaceful relationship. ... 
Unfortunately, North Korea's government remains one of 
the world's most opaque and unpredictable. 
Expectations for specific agreements coming out of the 
meetings should not be set too high.  South Korea's 
main goals in these talks, which are scheduled to run 
through Thursday ... include reaching agreement on 
additional high-level meetings, expanding economic 
exchanges and arranging for the reunification of 
millions of families divided since the Korean War.  
... North Korea's development of long-range missiles, 
coupled with its diplomatic aloofness and 
unpredictable behavior, was the leading reason behind 
the Clinton administration's efforts to develop 
defensive technologies capable of protecting the 
United States from a limited missile attack.  Those 
concerns remain valid.  But as North Korea begins to 
reach out from its self-imposed isolation, there are 
grounds for hoping that one day it may not longer need 
to be treated as a dangerous rogue state.
TEXT:  On that note, we conclude this sampling of 
early U-S editorial reaction to the historic pan-
Korean summit underway this week in Pyongyang.
14-Jun-2000 14:34 PM EDT (14-Jun-2000 1834 UTC)
Source: Voice of America

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