north korea south korea meeting 1
South Korea prepares for summit with N. Korea
02:24 - Source: CNN
Seoul, South Korea CNN  — 

When Moon Jae-in meets Kim Jong Un on Friday, he’ll be the third South Korean President to meet his North Korean counterpart.

Two of his predecessors, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, each held talks with the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2000 and 2007, respectively.

While those summits achieved some tangible results, they failed to significantly move the needle when it came to ending the conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

But there are important lessons Moon can take away from the successes and failures of his predecessors.

When Kim Dae-jung and Roh arrived in Pyongyang, Kim Jong Il rolled out the red carpet for them – literally and figuratively.

The pomp and circumstance made for compelling images that were broadcast around the world, and that’s exactly what the North Koreans wanted.

By holding the previous two summits in Pyongyang, the South Koreans gave Kim Jong Il’s massive propaganda machine a home-field advantage.

The country’s state-controlled media presented the visits as the South Koreans traveling north to pay tribute. They could more easily control the flow of information and imagery coming from the meetings because they were hosts.

Both the Kim Dae-jung and Roh administrations knew the risks of greeting Kim Jong Il on his own turf and potentially coming back empty-handed.

In Kim Dae-jung’s case, “the North just had this attitude where they said ‘just come, everything will be fine.’ So, there were certain elements of uncertainty and anxiety,” Kim Dae-jung’s son, Kim Hong-gul, told CNN.

Though Roh eventually made the decision to to go to the North Korean capital, his administration was hesitant to do so, said Lee Jong-seok, Roh’s former National Security Council chairman and unification minster.

“We struggled over the location of the summit because the North was reluctant to come to Seoul and we were reluctant to go up to Pyongyang for the second time,” Lee told CNN.

The optics were bad for both South Korean leaders. In each case, Kim Jong Il gained the propaganda victory of his sworn enemy coming north to meet him, without agreeing to anything that ultimately reduced tensions in the long term.

Moon will meet Kim at the Peace House on the southern side of the Joint Security Area (JSA), the only part of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that divides the two Koreas where soldiers from each side stand face-to-face. Peace House is on the southern side of the DMZ.

The choice was largely viewed as a compromise between the two leaders. While the spartan locale will lack the grandeur of the previous two summits, Moon appears to have secured an important propaganda victory of his own.