Chairs and dessert, Korea summit awash with symbolism

SEOUL South Korea has custom-made furniture for tomorrow's summit between President Moon Jae In and the North's leader Kim Jong Un - with chairs featuring disputed islands controlled by Seoul but claimed by Tokyo.

One thing the rival Koreas share is a resentment of Japan, which imposed brutal colonial rule on the peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and the gesture is likely to irritate Tokyo.

Japan has already lodged a strong protest over photos of a summit dessert dish which also marks the disputed islands.

The new walnut chairs to be used by the two leaders' seven-strong delegations at the summit at Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) each feature a map of the peninsula.

The tiny disputed islands are clearly marked, pictures released by the presidential Blue House showed yesterday.

The mousse, called "Spring of the People", features islands called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in Korea, which lie halfway between the East Asian neighbours in the Sea of Japan, which Seoul calls the East Sea.

"It is extremely regrettable," a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said yesterday, adding that Japan had lodged a protest.

"We have asked that the dessert not be served."

Symbolism also abounds in other aspects of the summit layout, with the delegations meeting in the Peace House around an oval table 2,018mm wide to mark the year.

"The oval table reflects the wish to see the North and the South sit down together and hold frank talks without any feeling of distance despite 65 years of division," the presidential Blue House said.

Traditional white porcelain vases will decorate corners of the room, filled with flowers including peonies to symbolise greetings, daisies for peace, and wild blooms from the DMZ.