The joint statement Friday, from the border truce village of Panmunjom, concluded a historic one-day bilateral summit aimed at achieving peace between the longtime adversaries for the first time in more than sixty years. The meeting of the Korean leaders was the first in more than a decade.
The statement was released during the signing of a pact between South Korean President Moon Jae-In and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un seeking to establish a "permanent" and "solid" peace on the Peninsula.
The two Koreas promised to ease military tensions, work together to achieve a peace regime, and work toward a nuclear-free region. They also pledged to improve inter-Korean relations, work toward co-prosperity and achieve a future of unification.
This will involve turning their fortified border into a "peace zone," pursuing multilateral talks with other powers such as the United States, working toward arms reduction and ceasing "hostile acts," according to the statement.
The North and South will hold high-level military meetings next month, and Moon has been scheduled to visit Pyongyang in the fall.
"We are at a starting line today, where a new history of peace, prosperity and inter-Korean relations is being written," Kim said, following a historic handshake with Moon on the heavily-fortified demilitarized zone separating the two countries. He called the North and South "brethren who should not live apart" and thanked Moon and other South Korean officials for a successful summit, adding that the countries "will become one" to enjoy prosperity.
The warm declarations have taken the world by surprise, considering relations between the two states have been hostile since the Korean War that began in 1950 and saw well over 1 million people killed.
North and South Korea have technically still been at war since then, as the cessation of fighting was only enabled by an armistice signed in 1953 rather than a peace agreement. The Peninsula has been divided since 1945.
The Northern regime has imprisoned, tortured and killed many of its own citizens for trying to defect to the South or for being suspected South Korean agents or sympathizers. South Korean statistics estimate the North has abducted more than 3,800 South Koreans since the armistice signing in 1953, and family members separated by the Peninsula's dividing line are still forbidden from being reunited.
Two prior bilateral summits held since 2000 failed to produce positive results.
While denuclearization has long been a priority for South Korea and the West and Kim now appears supportive, its success is far from guaranteed. Details such as agreeing on a definition of "denuclearization" accepted by all parties remain a key challenge.
The highly-anticipated summit, which follows decades of missile tests and threats from the North, precedes a meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump expected to take place in May or June, during which more of these details may be fleshed out. It would be the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader in history.