SEOUL — South Korean President Moon Jae-in is set to deploy some high-level gastrodiplomacy as he tries to win over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during Friday’s summit.
At a dinner scheduled for after their historic talks, the South will put on a banquet that is both lavish — after all, Kim looks like a man who enjoys his food — and infused with meaning.
It features ingredients from the home towns of pro-engagement South Korean presidents, cold noodles from a famous North Korean restaurant and, strikingly, potato rösti — a nod to the fact that Kim spent four years in Switzerland as a teenager.
Although South Korea designed the menu, it appears to be a tacit acknowledgement from North Korea that the leader did go to school in Switzerland. It also set off a wave of speculation that Geneva had been chosen as the location for the summit between Kim and President Trump.
“The welcome banquet is designed to reflect the efforts of those who worked hard for peace and the reunification of our people,” said Kim Eui-kyeom, spokesman for the South’s presidential Blue House.
“We added a sincere touch by sourcing ingredients from their home towns and places where they worked,” he said.
Kim will on Friday morning walk across the Military Demarcation Line that bisects the Korean Peninsula and enter Peace House, a four-story building on the southern side of the line.
There, he and Moon will hold face-to-face talks — the first inter-Korean summit in 11 years and the first not to take place in the Northern capital of Pyongyang — before sitting down for dinner in a banquet room created especially for the occasion.
Here’s what’s on the menu:
Cold buckwheat noodles from the renowned Okryugwan restaurant in Pyongyang. The head chef from the restaurant will prepare the noodles in a building on the northern side of the line, and they will be delivered across to the banquet room on the southern side.
Bibimbap made with vegetables grown in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas and rice grown in Bongha village, the home town of former liberal president Roh Moo-hyun, who traveled to Pyongyang in 2007 to meet Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s father.
Beef from a farm in South Chungcheong Province. In 1998, Chung Ju-yung, who was born in what is now North Korea and went on to create the Hyundai business empire, donated 500 cows to North Korea, part of a nascent engagement effort. The beef to be served on Friday will come from the same farm as those 500 cows.
Croaker fish and sea cucumber sourced from Gageo Island, off South Korea’s southwest coast. This is near the home town of Kim Dae-jung, the South Korean president who, after being elected in 1997, began the first efforts to engage North Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. He met Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang in 2000, the first inter-Korean summit.
Then comes fried John Dory, a flat fish and local delicacy of Busan, where Moon spent his childhood.
That will be followed by a “Swiss-style potato pancake” inspired by rösti, an acknowledgement of Kim Jong Un’s younger days in Switzerland.
Then comes the mango mousse decorated with a blue map of a unified Korean Peninsula with the date and the words “The spring of our people.” This continues the theme from the South Korean concert in Pyongyang earlier this month, which was called “Spring is coming.”
Finally there will be a traditional Korean liquor that dates back to a long-ago dynasty, back before there was a North and a South. There will doubtless be toasts. But will there also be hangovers? Stay tuned.