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Dogs? Mushrooms? What Gifts Will Kim Jong Un Bring To His Meeting With The South Korean President?

REUTERS/KCNA

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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When North Korean leaders meet their South Korean counterparts, they tend to offer rather unusual gifts, begging the question: What will Kim Jong Un bring when he meets the South Korean president Friday.

Transitioning from a brutal despot with nukes in hand to an international statesman, Kim will cross into South Korea for the first time Friday for a landmark meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Friday’s meeting is the third inter-Korean summit, but the first in a decade. Kim will soon become the first North Korean leader to visit South Korea since the end of hostilities over six decades ago.

When former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung met the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang in 2000, the two sides exchanged dogs. The South Korean leader presented a pair of Jindo dogs named Peace and Reunification, and the North Korean leader brought two Pusan dogs named Unity and Independence. The dogs given to South Korea were given a home at the presidential office and later the national zoo. Yet, no one is really sure what happened to the two dogs presented to the North.

The South also gave the North Korean leader a 60-inch TV, an electronic organ and three video tape recorders. Kim Dae-jung also reportedly paid the North Koreans $500 million for the summit.

The first summit, despite much optimism, did not result in a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

When the two sides gave it another shot and met again in 2007, the two Korean leaders again exchanged gifts. At that point, United Nations sanctions prohibited the transfer of luxury goods to North Korea.

Former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun gave Kim Jong Il a DVD set of Tae Jang Geum (a 54-episode drama) with the autograph of the lead actress, Lee Young-ae. In return, the North Korean leader gave the South Korean president three tonnes of prized Matsutake mushrooms. Perhaps strange to Western observers, this extravagant gift cost an estimated $2.6 million, as these mushrooms are delicacies in Asia.

Given all of the sanctions and restrictions on exports to North Korea, the South will likely struggle to find a suitable gift for Kim Jong Un. Export restrictions, however, did not stop Chinese leadership from lavishing Kim with gifts when he visited Beijing in late March. It remains unclear what Kim will bring to the table when he meets Moon Friday.

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