South Korea's President Moon Jae-in departed on Tuesday for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seeking to cement a breakthrough in faltering nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington.
The optics of Moon's visit to Pyongyang are "reminiscent of the Chinese emperor receiving tributary missions - with a pan-Korean ethnic nationalistic twist - the Son of Heaven graciously receiving the barbarian envoy, dazzling the visitor with opulence, grace, and power", according to Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korea expert at Tufts University's Fletcher School.
Moon is set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang on Tuesday.
Moon said it was "time to bear fruit" and thanked Kim for his hospitality, which included a massive welcome ceremony at Pyongyang International Airport featuring a large, goose-stepping honour guard and a military band.
Hours after his arrival, Moon began an official summit with Kim at the ruling Workers' Party headquarters.
Washington wants to see concrete signs of denuclearisation by North Korea before agreeing to a key goal of Pyongyang - declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
Moon and his wife, Kim Jung-sook, were greeted by Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju.
K-pop starlet Ailee and rapper Zico, who were described by Moon as pioneering "new culture", were also part of the entourage. Choi Tae Young, president of the College of Music, welcomed the delegation who escorted them around the facility.
People pose in front of bronze statues of the late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, North Korea, on September 11, 2018.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in left Tuesday for Pyongyang for a summit with top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un, a live broadcast at the Seoul press center showed.
The visit is expected to last three days.
"I wish this will be a summit that produces abundant results as a gift to the 80 million people of this nation for Chuseok", the South Korean leader said, referring to the traditional holiday that falls on Monday.
Amid the pomp and smiles, Mr Moon will be looking to settle some lofty goals, including resolving deadlocked nuclear diplomacy, easing a military standoff and promoting peace on a peninsula many feared was close to war a year ago.
This week's summit comes as the United States presses other countries to strictly observe UN sanctions aimed at choking off funding for Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
Kim Jong Un took office in late 2011 upon the death of his father. Moon had hoped to break an impasse in talks with the United States over the North's denuclearization and breathe energy into his own efforts to expand and improve relations between the Koreas.
"Citing the lack of progress on U.S. - North Korean dialog, Kim said, "[South Korea] needs to have some kind of mediating role to (continue dialog)".
This will be the fifth inter-Korean summit in the history of two Koreas and the third one this year.
"We believe that there have been considerable discussions regarding agreements on the easing of military tensions".
But Trump has also reportedly expressed deep skepticism of the US military presence in South Korea.
While there's been occasional, sometimes serious violence since the war ended in 1953, including in 2010 when 50 South Koreans were killed in attacks blamed on the North, the enmity hasn't risen to full-scale fighting since.
But National Security Adviser John Bolton said: "President Trump can't make the North Koreans walk through the door he's holding open".
Kim and Roh came for summit meetings with PDRK's leader Kim Jong-il, a western diplomat recalled for Prensa Latina.
The question is now whether Moon can persuade Kim to make any more concrete commitments like handing over of a list of nuclear stockpiles, or broker a second summit between the USA and the North.
South Korea's president hopes to be a mediator between the two, as well as boosting the inter-Korean relationship.