Kim Jong Un had warm parting words for his South Korean rival, whose government North Korean officials previously called idiotic. The AP reports the North Korean leader thanked President Moon Jae-in for working to improve relations between the two countries over his single five-year term, which will end May 10, in a Thursday letter reported by the Korean Central News Agency. It was "a rare gesture of goodwill but one that analysts said may not be enough to head off growing tension," Reuters reports. South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol of the conservative People Power Party has indicated he will take a tougher stance on the North than his predecessor.
Moon first wrote to Kim on Wednesday, per the New York Times, describing "moments of regret and memories of overwhelming emotions" with Kim over the course of his term, which included three friendly meetings in 2018. During one, Moon became "the first South Korean leader to address a North Korean audience," per the Times. "I believe that holding our hands together, we have taken a sure step toward changing the fate of the Korean Peninsula," Moon wrote. He urged Kim to use "dialogue to overcome the era of confrontation" and to resume dialogue with the US. The 69-year-old said he would remain devoted to building peace and reconciliation despite returning to "life as an ordinary citizen."
"The exchange of the personal letters between the top leaders of the North and the South is an expression of their deep trust," KCNA reported Friday, per the Times. Yoon has said he is open to dialogue with the North but also sees the need to enforce sanctions to pressure the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program. In his letter, Kim said he "appreciated the pains and effort taken by Moon Jae-in for the great cause of the nation until the last days of his term of office," adding "inter-Korean relations would improve and develop as desired and anticipated by the nation if the north and the south make tireless efforts with hope," according to KCNA. (Read more Moon Jae-in stories.)