PANMUNJOM, Korea -- U.S. Congressman Gary Ackerman crossed into South Korea Tuesday at the close of a four-day North Korean trip and said he had useful talks with North Korean President Kim Il-sung during the visit.
Ackerman, chairman of the East Asia-Pacific Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, walked acorss the Korean border at the Panmunjom truce village 35 miles (56 km) north of Seoul.
'It was a very short walk down a historically long road,' he said as he met the press at the truce site shortly after noon.
He said he was told that he was the first U.S. official to walk into the South from the North, and he described the gesture as a symbol of his hope to help pave the way for more travel over the Korean border.
The New York Democrat said he met North Korean President Kim Il-sung and had talks and lunch together. He said he also met other North Korean officials.
'Without going into details and any specifics let me say that I did not make the trip to negotiate,' he said. 'I went to try to break the ice.... Allow me to say that I was there basically to explain our side and try to get them to listen.'
Ackerman said he listened closely to what the North Koreans had to say.
'The encouraging thing is, I believe very strongly, they listened very closely and seriously to what I had to say. And I think right now they are digesting that,' he said.
'I would term our discussions as very useful and productive,' Ackerman said of his talks with Kim Il-sung, who he said was 'very attentive' to his presentation 'and hopefully that will have some effect on the process.'
Ackerman hoped to see South Korean President Kim Young-sam before leaving for home Wednesday, but he declined to say if he bore a message to the South Korean leader from North Korea's president.
He said he and North Korean officials also discussed a third round of high-level nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea, but he did not elaborate.
The third round, initially expected for mid-September, did not come off because North Korea did meet a U.S. demand that it open talks with the international International Atomic Energy Agency for nuclear inspections.