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Weekend is deadline for Kim to announce visit to Seoul

Dec 12,2018
After Monday rolled by with no response to South Korea’s invitation for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to visit Seoul, the Blue House is now hoping that the North will give an answer by the weekend.

A Blue House source said Tuesday on the condition of anonymity that Seoul’s presidential office initially set Monday as a deadline to receive a response on Kim’s visit to Seoul. After Monday passed without a response from the North, Blue House officials are now admitting this week is the last chance that Seoul will be capable of preparing for Kim’s visit before North Korea’s political calendar gets hectic from Christmas Eve, the source said.

Seoul crossed out the possibility Kim may visit Seoul at the end of this month, according to the source, as the Blue House assumes his schedule will already be packed with domestic events. Next Monday is the seventh anniversary of the death of his father, former leader Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011. Christmas Eve is the birthday of Kim Jong-un’s late grandmother Kim Jong-suk, a widely beloved figure in North Korean society. Dec. 24 is also the day Kim Jong-il was publicly declared North Korea’s supreme commander in 1991. Dec. 27 is Constitution Day, another holiday in the North, and Dec. 30 is when Kim Jong-un was declared supreme commander in 2011.

Considering this, Blue House officials think Kim would only realistically be able to visit Seoul between next Monday and Christmas Eve if he were to come this month.

For months, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the Blue House have been drumming up domestic anticipation that Kim may become the first North Korean leader to visit the South Korean capital based on an oral agreement Moon said he reached with Kim in late September.

In the Pyongyang Declaration, signed by Kim and Moon on Sept. 19 during their third summit in Pyongyang, Kim agreed to visit Seoul “at an early date” at Moon’s invitation. The Blue House chief later explained to reporters that those words meant “by the end of this year” unless “special circumstances arose.” Blue House officials said Seoul has asked Pyongyang whether Kim was willing to follow through on that agreement, but still hasn’t received a response.

During a radio interview with CBS on Tuesday, Rep. Kim Jong-dae of the minor leftist Justice Party said North Korea was “extremely furious” with the Moon government while discussing his recent conversations with North Korean officials. Pyongyang, according to the lawmaker, was especially irritated about Seoul’s hesitance to re-open the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Kumgang tour resort. Seoul refused to restart the cross-border projects with the North unless significant progress is made in North Korean denuclearization.

Rep. Kim said the North Korean officials appeared to have second thoughts about Kim Jong-un’s visit to Seoul and were asking themselves whether the visit would lead to any tangible results.

BY KANG TAE-HWA, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]