The Inside Scoop on Kim Jong Un’s Visit to Russia! Last Minute Planning Was Touch and Go!
Vladimir Putin: He's a very interesting and informed conversation partner.
«No, look, it should be a bit higher».
There are just 600 residents in the border village of Hasan. That morning, everyone here understood that the entire world was watching them. And they prepared a lot. The head of the station met Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il over the last decade. Now, it's Kim Jong-un's turn.
Sergey Komkov, head of the railway station: Guests are always a good thing.
— Is it smooth?
— Of course, everything should be lovely, so that everyone likes it.
— Just do it more merrily, you're happy, right? Do it again.
«Welcome to Russia!»
— Yes, sideways. Don't be so anxious and constrained.
— Be calm and smile.
— We're happy, aren't we?
Employees of the Korean protocol service are constantly talking by phone using roaming service. In North Korea, not many people have mobile phones. These are calls of particular significance. Kim Jong-un's train has crossed the border.
North Korea is 160 feet away from here. Earlier, trains from the DPRK went along this narrow gauge. But this gauge is no longer used in Russia. So, before arriving on Russian territory, Kim Jong-un's armored train had to change wheelsets. Whether the noise of the train startled the birds or it's just a coincidence, a beautiful flock of birds took to the sky. The local deputy thought it wasn't a coincidence.
Like birds off branches, people wearing black suits began to jump out of the train.
«A bit closer, just a bit. Great! Stand up».
A few seconds later, the personal cameramen of the North Korean leader were by the main car. And we see Kim Jong-un, head of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in Russia for the first time, descending the ramp. The head of the state protocol service is welcoming him.
«We're happy to welcome you at Hasan station. We hope that your visit to Russia will be successful. Welcome».
Kim Jong-un: «I'm very happy to visit your beautiful country».
There are so many different mysteries and myths about Kim Jong-un that people kept making them up about every second of his visit to Russia. They claimed that he refused to try bread and salt. But here's what really happened.
«This is our Russian tradition. Welcome!»
Then, many people said that he visited Kim Il-sung's house at the border. In fact, Kim Jong-un just entered the building of the railway station.
The first meeting is being held right in the railway station Hasan. Kim Jong-un is sitting in that armchair. In 2011, his father Kim Jong-Il was on the same spot. He's constantly joking, laughing a lot. This is completely different from the image created in the Western media. The Russian president, who met with Kim Jong-un for the first time, then talked about his impressions.
Vladimir Putin: «He's quite an open person. He freely discusses. He's a very interesting and informed conversation partner».
But Kim Jong-un had to travel from Hasan to that meeting in Vladivostok. While assistants checked something on his train's wheels, they were preparing to serve tea at the station, without any frills.
«These are pastries made by our local producers».
Kim Jong-un said that he's long dreamed to come to Russia. Any journalist is sure to have dreamed of at least trying to talk with him. For some reason, nobody in the world has managed to do it before. He obviously didn't understand the prepared phrase in bad Korean. But at least he got interested.
— How do you like it in Russia?
Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of the DPRK: I've come to Russia with a warm feeling of our people. As I've already mentioned, I hope that this visit will be successful and useful. I also hope that in the course of the negotiations with the respected President Putin, I'll manage to discuss the issues concerning the settlement of the situation on the Korean peninsula and the development of our bilateral relations in detail.
— What are the main issues that you'd like to discuss with Putin?
— Extend my greeting to all of the Russian people.
A moment later, all of the station employees' hearts must have sunk because the North Korean leader touched that very railing that they polished with sandpaper just half an hour before.
— We'll meet in Vladivostok, right?
— We'll meet you there. Until next time!
Kim Jong-un is leaving for Vladivostok. It takes about six hours to get to the city by train.
«Until next time!»
— They didn't eat the grapes, did they?
— No, they didn't.
The atmosphere at the station became livelier.
— How do you feel in this armchair?
— It's okay. We often sit in it. Kim Jong-un is in the fourth car.
And there are another eight cars in this armored train. Among other things, there is an armored car, a dining car, and a tailor's shop in this train. Actually, it's a real motor home. And many of its permanent residents had to jump onto that home on the go.
But there were many more South Korean, Japanese, and American journalists, who rushed to Vladivostok. First, they tried to not attract attention. But when they began to hang North Korean flags on the campus of the Far Eastern Federal University and it became clear that the visit would definitely take place, people holding small cameras started appearing from everywhere.
— I'm from South Korea.
— There are so many of you here, from Japan and Korea. There are lots of them.
This is the railway station in Vladivostok. Many broadcast footage from here. Assistant jumped off the cars and ran while holding perfectly clean handrails, attached them on the go, and wiped them with paper towels.
Of course, such a visit caused quite a stir among the residents of Vladivostok. You see how many people there are. And we can see the head of the DPRK walking along the square near the railway station. Then, many viewers saw several of Kim Jong-un's guards running after his car. It shows the total dedication of every member of the delegation.
Of course, it's never happened. We're now in Kim Jong-un's motorcade. We can see his armored Mercedes. A string of cars is moving along the bridge over Golden Horn Bay. And Kim Jong-un's personal cameramen are pulling at my legs and demand to film their leader going along the bridge. One of them is doing it at a high speed through a sunroof. Another is doing it through the window. Another is filming through the windscreen.
We're in Kim Jong-un's personal cameramen's car. How many people are here at the moment? One, two, three, four. There are about seven people. There are no obstacles for Kim Jong-un's cameramen. Here's a man who practically sits on the driver while he's driving and continues to work.
— Comrade driver, how are you?
— I'm great.
— I've never experienced this.
Kim Jong-un will stay at the first building of the Far Eastern Federal University. A special suite is prepared for him there. Those who were at the end of the motorcade also ran. They were high-ranking, elderly, military, people wearing civilian clothes. They were bringing suits and boxes to the suite on the top floor in a hurry.
I think that the most important thing is the roof terrace. It has a great view of the Pacific Ocean. This is Ajax Bay. This is the bridge to Russky Island. The atmosphere is quiet and calm. It should be unusual for Kim Jong-un, because at home, in Pyongyang, if he appears on such a balcony, there'll be lots of chanting people outside for sure. There's nothing like it in Vladivostok, of course.
«I'm combing the carpet's pile».
The following morning when the meeting between the president of Russia and the head of the DPRK was to be held, the excitement reached its climax. The fight for the seats suddenly intensified because everyone had to change location at the last minute. Because of a squall in Vladivostok, panels in the ceiling in the entrance lobby, through which Putin and Kim Jong-un were to enter, were replaced. That's why they quickly changed the entrance lobby through which the leaders will enter.
But they already laid the carpets. Now, they have to replace them quickly, and open other doors which were closed, by the way.
— Let's try this.
They have to replace the stands that they prepared for journalists. After all, the leaders were about to come.
— We won't redo it.
— I'll replace the wires.
A few minutes later, when the leaders shook hands, everything looked as if it was planned from the beginning.
«I've long dreamed of meeting you in person».
Vladimir Putin: «We've negotiated it for a long time, if I'm not mistaken».
This is the first meeting between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un in history. There are long negotiations ahead. It's clear that the main topic is the settlement on the Korean peninsula. It's fundamentally important for Russia. The DPRK is Russia's neighbor. The Korean peninsula is at the other end of the world from the USA. That's probably why the difference in approaches is so big. Washington wants to solve all of the problems off the cuff and solely to its benefit. It's a «cowboy» approach: you'll give me everything at once, and then I'll think about if I'll give you anything. Moscow conducts its foreign policy in a principally different manner and reminds how it should be.
Vladimir Putin: «It's international law, not fist law, that determines the situation in the world».
According to Putin, only this basis can help succeed in solving difficult issues, such as nuclear disarmament on the Korean peninsula.
Vladimir Putin: «We'll discuss this issue openly and frankly with the American leadership. There's nothing secret about it. The Russian position is always open. There's no conspiracy. As for decreasing the risk of nuclear conflicts, of course, it's our common priority. But I got the impression that the North Korean leader has the same point of view. They only need guarantees of their security. That's it. We should think about it together».
Especially since North Korea has long shown that there's no use in talking to it using force. It can be seen even in details. These armored Mercedes cars were delivered here by a special train. There are several cars. Note that Kim Jong-un travels in cars that were made in Germany. The German manufacturer has already stated that it has no idea of how the leader of the DPRK managed to acquire its car.
At the meeting with Putin, Kim Jong-un demonstrated a then-unprecedented readiness to hold a dialogue in formats common for diplomatic practice. There were one-on-one negotiations between the leaders. Then, members of the delegations participated. There was a statement for the press in front of television cameras. The only striking difference was a too careful attitude by his assistants.
He sprayed alcohol on the chair that the leader was to sit on. Putting on white gloves, he carefully wiped it with paper towels. Then he examined the chair with some dosimeter and didn't understand why it attracted the journalists' attention. Five minutes later, he began to do it again, just as carefully. It turned out that the assistants were wiping the wrong chair that whole time. So, they now have to wipe another one. Another assistant examined the floor coating that Kim Jong-un was to walk on. When he saw some irregularity, he asked to fix it quickly.
And here's the famous North Korean applause. Kim Jong-un heard it at the evening function.
It could last endlessly long, as we know. But Russia has different traditions. Putin spoke about specific things. Combining efforts, we can solve the problems that have been accumulating for decades.
Vladimir Putin: «As a Korean proverb says, joint efforts can move a boulder».
There were Russian folk and military songs. Many Koreans consider them to be something native.
Viktor Yeliseev, Director of the Ministry of Interior Ensemble: «They know and love them. Many of them say that songs such as „Katyusha“ and „Dark is the Night“ were written by Koreans».
On every table, there are specially-made medals and gifts for the participants in the meeting. It's a small souvenir warehouse. They prepared these plates, featuring a strong handshake between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, as well as the signature «Welcome», done in Russian and Korean for the members of the delegation. It'll be someone's keepsake.
The leader of the DPRK invited Putin to come to North Korea for a return visit.
Saying goodbye, Kim Jong-un held the Russian president's hand for about 25 seconds and then waved from the car window.