Kim Jong-un has become the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea by crossing the military line in the demilitarized zone that has divided the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
South Korean leader Moon Jae-in and Mr Kim shook hands at the border in a moment filled with symbolism.
The diplomatic rapprochement is a long way from the warlike rhetoric of months ago when the North threatened nuclear action on its neighbours.
Mr Kim said he hoped for “frank” discussion in a warm opening exchange ahead of the summit that will focus on peace on the peninsula and reaching an agreement to end Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, BBC writes.
The whole of South Korea stood still for the moment the leaders shook hands on both sides of the border, and audiences watched in surprise as Mr Kim invited the South Korean president to step briefly across the demarcation line into North Korea, before the pair stepped back into South Korea.
The leaders were met by an honour guard in traditional costume on the South Korean side, before they walked to the Peace House in Panmunjom, a military compound in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between the two countries.
“A new history begins now – at the starting point of history and the era of peace,” read the message Mr Kim wrote in a guestbook.
The gravity of the meeting – the first between Korean leaders in more than a decade – was also punctuated by lighter moments as Mr Kim joked about bringing some of North Korea’s famous cold noodles for the summit.
“I hope you will really enjoy the noodles that we brought,” he said.
The Korean summit is seen as a prelude to a proposed meeting between Mr Kim and US President Trump, an unprecedented move as no sitting US president has met with a North Korean leader.