TOKYO — What exactly were the two Korean leaders talking about for that half-hour they spent sitting on park benches in the sunshine during their summit last Friday?
Well, we don’t exactly know, but thanks to some South Korean lip-readers and some news-hungry media outlets, we have some clues.
It seems that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in spent a fair bit of time talking about President Trump and about nuclear weapons.
The Japanese television channel NTV got a South Korean lip-reading expert to analyze the conversation that Moon and Kim had as they walked along a blue footbridge and sat at the end of it. Cameras were filming from too far away to pick up any words.
“It was difficult to understand the whole conversation, but fragmentary keywords like ‘nuclear weapons facility,’ ‘Trump,’ ‘United States’ and ‘United Nations’ emerged,” the presenter on the NTV show Sukkiri said. The experts cautioned that it’s hard to read from a distance and on an angle, but that this was what they could glean.
Moon uttered the words “nuclear facilities” and “Trump,” while it was Kim who talked about “the United States” and “the United Nations.”
Kim appeared to be mostly in listening mode, said Atsuhito Isozaki, a North Korea expert at Keio University in Japan. He suspected that Moon explained how the United States might approach the talks — the thing that Kim most wants to know, Isozaki said.
South Korea’s biggest newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, also got three lip-readers to analyze their chat.
They said Moon led the conversation, beginning by saying: “Let’s not keep our relations cut off, let’s talk more and move in a positive direction.”
After the two leaders sat down on a bench, Kim said, according to the lip-readers: “The North Korea-U.S. summit must yield positive results, and I want to take things step by step to eliminate any problems.”
Kim also seemed to be asking Moon for his opinion on Trump’s intentions. Moon responded with large hand gestures, the Chosun Ilbo reported.
Again with a caveat about distance and angle, one of the lip-readers said that the two Korean leaders appear to have talked about the White House’s suspicions about North Korea’s willingness to scrap its nuclear weapons program.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House declined to confirm these findings to the Chosun Ilbo, although a spokesman did deny the two talked about closing nuclear test sites during their park bench chat.
They also discussed their personal lives a little, according to South Korea’s Channel A.
“Father looked at me and told me to marry that woman, so I trusted him,” Kim told Moon, talking about his wife, a singer named Ri Sol Ju. Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, married several women who had been actresses and singers.
Ri is emerging as a kind of North Korean celebrity, appearing in fashionable outfits during events with her husband. She attended the dinner at the end of Friday’s summit, smiling throughout and having warm conversations about art and music with Moon’s wife, Kim Jung-sook.
Coincidentally, Moon’s wife has the same name as Kim Jong Il’s mother.
Min Joo Kim in Seoul and Yuki Oda in Tokyo contributed reporting.