In mid-March 1981, Asukata Ichio, chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Japan Socialist Party, visited Pyongyang.
President Kim Il Sung held talks with him and arranged a banquet for him.
On March 16, Asukata threw a return banquet, prior to his return home.
During the banquet he told Kim Il Sung of his impressions from his visit to the newly-built Munsu Street, and suggested that apple trees be planted along the roadsides.
Kim Il Sung said that apple trees looked good but were difficult to tend as they were often infested with insects, and he recalled something that had happened soon after the Fatherland Liberation War.
“One day a 70-year-old man sent me a letter. He wrote that since olden times Pyongyang had been called Ryugyong (Ryu means willow tree and Gyong means capital city–Tr.) and he wondered why other species of trees apart from willows were planted along the roadsides in Pyongyang. After reading the letter I felt I had made a mistake.”
Kim Il Sung continued: Willow trees are not suitable for planting along roadsides because the blossom floats on the wind in spring and they are tall and cast a shadow over buildings. However, I saw to it that willows were planted in several streets in Pyongyang out of respect for the opinions of the people. Thereafter, we planted willows along several streets in Pyongyang, including the street in front of the Kumsusan Assembly Hall and that from Pyongyang Railway Station into the city centre.
He told his guest that after reading the old man’s letter, he could not sleep for several nights on account of his self-reproach for the mistake he had made, and that he had had the matter of planting a large number of willows in Pyongyang discussed at a session of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Then he had written a reply to the old man in which he gave his word that he would have a willow street laid out in Pyongyang in deference to his opinion.
Asukata said to Kim Il Sung: “There is no record in world history of a head of state replying by letter to an ordinary old man. It is, indeed, a new legend about respect for the people, a legend that can be created only by Your Excellency because you respect the people above all else.”