A symbolic tree was planted on the North-South Korean border during the groundbreaking summit

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un planted a commemorative pine tree “as an expression of wishes for peace and prosperity” during their diplomatic summit on Friday – their first in more than a decade.
  • Moon and Kim applied a mixture of soil and water from the mountains and rivers in North and South Korea.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un planted a commemorative pine tree on Friday “as an expression of wishes for peace and prosperity” during their historic summit at Panmunjom, the border of North and South Korea.

The pine tree dates back to 1953, when the armistice to suspend the Korean War hostilities was signed, inter-Korean summit preparation committee chairman Im Jong-seok said during a televised news conference.

As a symbolic gesture of unity, the two leaders applied a mixture of soil and water from the mountains and rivers in North and South Korea. In addition to the tree, a stone plaque with an engraving that said “Peace and Prosperity Are Planted,” was affixed nearby.

The symbolism of the planting ceremony stretches beyond the tree’s branches for Moon, who has a shared history with the location and a particular tree.

In 1976, two US soldiers were murdered by North Koreans wielding axes in the Demilitarized Zone. The slain US soldiers were reportedly on a mission to trim a poplar tree – a plan that the North previously agreed to. The tree had been blocking the view of US and South Korean forces.

As a South Korean special forces soldier, Moon was a member of a joint US-South Korean mission that removed the tree as a sign of defiance: “Fortunately the operation was accomplished safely as North Korea didn’t respond to our tree-cutting work, and all of us were given a piece of wood as a badge, for overcoming a national crisis,” Moon said in his memoir, according to Reuters.

On Friday morning, Kim and Moon made history when they greeted each other in what was the first meeting between leaders of the two countries in 11 years.

Moon is the third South Korean president to meet with North Korea’s leader. His predecessors, President Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, held meetings with North Korea in 2000 and 2007, respectively.

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