A rare invitation to Pyongyang for the South Korean president marked the second day of the North Korean Kim dynasty's southern road tour Saturday, part of an accelerated diplomatic warming that included more handshakes, some Korean liquor over lunch, and the potential shared joy of watching a "unified" Korea team play hockey at the Olympics. Nothing has been settled on any trip north by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. But the verbal message to come at a "convenient time" from dictator Kim Jong Un, delivered by his visiting little sister, Kim Yo Jong, is part of a sudden rush of improving feelings between the rivals during the Pyeongchang Olympics. The lunch Saturday at Seoul's presidential mansion between Moon and Kim Yo Jong is the most significant diplomatic encounter between the rivals in years.
Past "charm offensives" have been interpreted as North Korea trying to recoup from crippling sanctions on their nuclear program, or trying to drive a wedge between Seoul and its US ally. A massive military parade in Pyongyang on the eve of the just-opened Games has been used as Exhibit A by skeptics: In it, Kim Jong Un highlighted several huge ICBMs, which were successfully flight-tested three times last year and could reach deep into the US mainland when perfected. Even so, there's also cautious optimism, or curiosity at least. If peace isn't imminent, a summit in Pyongyang between Moon and Kim Jong Un seems better to most than the threats of recent months. "Kim Jong Un is clearly serious about reviving talks with the South to improve relations," says a security adviser to Moon. "It seems clear that the countries have entered a phase of restoring a regular level of contact."