Anchor: North Korea continues to remain silent about a prospective visit to South Korea by leader Kim Jong-un. If the visit is to take place before the end of the year, as the South Korean government hopes, there may only be a matter of days left to confirm a date and make arrangements. Kim Bum-soo has more.
Report: It was at September's inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang about three months ago when leaders of the two Koreas first held out the possibility of meeting again in Seoul.
[Sound bite: N. Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Korean)]
"I promised to President Moon Jae-in that I will visit Seoul in the near future. We will put an end to the tragedy of division as soon as possible and hold our hands together to embark on a sacred journey to peace and prosperity."
[Sound bite: President Moon Jae-in (Korean)]
"I requested Chairman Kim Jong-un to visit Seoul and he decided to come to Seoul in the near future. 'Near future' means 'within this year' unless there is a special circumstances. Chairman Kim's visit to Seoul would be the first by a North Korean leader and it will provide a breakthrough to the inter-Korean relations."
Now, in December, with just a few weeks remaining in the year, the South still hasn't heard any confirmation date from the North. That's according to Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, who told lawmakers Friday the South and North have been in talks to try to make the visit happen.
It takes about ten days to prepare for secret service- and protocol-related procedures, and that's why experts believes the South needs to hear from the North at least by early next week.
Experts said nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang may lose momentum if Kim does not visit Seoul.
Dr. Cho Seong-ryoul, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy is a member of advisory group for President Moon Jae-in.
[Sound bite: Cho Seong-ryoul - senior researcher, the Institute for National Security Strategy (Korean)]
"North Korea begins preparations for [Kim's] New Year's address from early December... If the inter-Korean summit is not held this year and if it leads to negative elements in his speech, such as a reevaluation of denuclearization talks throughout this year, it will make the Korean Peninsula situation difficult in 2019. From our government's point of view, the New Year speech needs to contain Chairman Kim Jong-un's re-commitment to denuclearization and a hopeful message for peace and prosperity in the event of denuclearization."
North Korea's economy contracted by three-point-five percent last year, and Kim wants to see removal of at least some economic sanctions on his country. It remains unclear, however, if a Kim visit to Seoul would help on that point.
During his recent meeting with Moon, U.S. President Donald Trump raised hope, asking the South Korean president to deliver his message to Kim if he comes to Seoul this year.
[Sound bite: President Moon Jae-in (Dec. 2/In-flight Q&A)]
"The message is that President Trump has very friendly thoughts toward Chairman Kim and likes him, and likewise President Trump wants to carry out the rest of the agreements along with Chairman Kim, and he is willing to realize what Chairman Kim wants."
But even while arranging his second summit with Kim early next year, Trump remains adamant that sanctions will remain until denuclearization.
Kim Bum-soo, KBS World Radio News.