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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Seoul and Pyongyang are not currently holding any discussions over a potential visit by DPRK leader Kim Jong Un to South Korea, the ROK’s unification minister said on Wednesday.
The comments come amid growing speculation that a Kim visit to the South will take place this month.
September’s Pyongyang Joint Declaration saw the two Koreas agree that Kim’s would visit Seoul at “an early date,” with President Moon Jae-in saying it would likely take place by the end of 2018.
Asked by lawmaker Ji Sang-uk about that possibility on Wednesday, Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon said Seoul considers “all possibilities open.”
“I would like to say that nothing has been concretely discussed over the issues, including the schedule,” Cho told a hearing of the National Assembly’s special committee on inter-Korean economic cooperation.
When asked about rumors that the Moon administration had requested Seoul’s N Tower to not accept reservations between December 13 and 14, Cho said he was not aware of the issue and would not confirm a connection to a potential Kim visit.
With regard to the potential for violations of the South’s National Security Act during any visit by the DPRK leader’s trip to Seoul, he said he was “cautious to make reference of the National Security Act in my capacity of unification minister.”
“Diverse views have been suggested within our society on chairman Kim Jong Un’s return visit, which is a natural phenomenon,” Cho said.
“But my opinion is that it is meaningful from the perspective of inter-Korean relations if chairman Kim Jong Un visits and experiences [diversity of opinion] in person.”
South Korean vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung on Wednesday said a visit by Kim to Seoul may come before the end of the year, however.
“Despite there not being much time left, it is possible that chairman Kim Jong Un can make a return visit within the year,” Chun told a forum hosted by the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC).
“It is not impossible to carry out, though there is not much time left,” he told participants, adding the possibility remains open due to the “firm determination of the South and North Korean leaders.”
Local newspaper the Dong-A Ilbo the same day reported that the Blue House had proposed Kim Jong Un visit Seoul between December 18 and 20, considering the anniversary of his father Kim Jong Il’s death on December 17 – claims denied by the government.
“It is not true,” Senior Secretary to the President for Public Communications Yoon Young-chan said in a written statement.
“As the President has mentioned, we are open to the timing visit until the end of this year, and at the beginning of the next year,” Yoon added, emphasizing the “significance of the North’s determination” in holding the summit.
President Moon on Tuesday said a Seoul summit before the end of the year remains possible, while adding there was no time frame set for the return visit.
What is more important than holding that event this year, he stressed however, was that Seoul “accelerate and mediate” DPRK-U.S. nuclear negotiations, to ensure progress denuclearization at a planned second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Pyeongyang Press Corps