|North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, center, arrives at the Beijing International airport in Beijing, Dec. 6. Ri arrived in key ally China for talks that come amid stalled efforts to persuade Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs. AP-Yonhap|
By Kim Yoo-chul
If North Korean leader Kim Jong-un comes to Seoul within this year as he promised, he would be welcomed by a majority of people, according to a recent poll.
Given the limited time for preparation, political analysts say it would be extremely difficult for Kim to visit by the end of the year. But some raise the possibility of it taking place given the several unexpected events that have occurred over the past months.
South Koreans are ready to accept what would be a historic visit.
A survey conducted by Realmeter of 500 South Koreans over age 19, showed that 61 percent would welcome Kim's visit if it helps to improve inter-Korean relations and accelerate the ongoing peace process.
Thirty one percent of respondents responded that they didn't support the visit claiming it would be a "fake peace show."
Demographically, respondents in their 40s with liberal political views backed Kim's visit to the South the most.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told lawmakers Friday that the ministry had suggested several dates to high-ranking North Korean officials, however, he declined to specify which ones, adding he was waiting for a reply.
Chief presidential secretary Yoon Young-chan sent text messages to local reporters who speculated that Kim's trip to Seoul would happen between Dec. 18 and Dec. 20 saying this was "simply untrue." Yoon didn't elaborate further.
|President Moon Jae-in smiles while holding the hand of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after they climbed to the top of Mount Paektu, on the sidelines of Moon's visit to Pyongyang for a summit with Kim in September this year. Yonhap|
Moon earlier said Kim's visit was "still possible" and stressed it would provide huge momentum to advance stalled denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang. U.S. President Donald Trump is hoping to meet his North Korean counterpart in either January or February next year.
Seventy-four percent of respondents in their 40s said they would welcome Kim. The majority of respondents in their 30s (66 percent) and 20s (61 percent) were also positive about the visit. One interesting finding from the survey was that more than half of those in their 50s (60 percent) and 60s (50 percent) also supported the visit.
If Kim does come to Seoul, he will be the first North Korean leader to officially visit the South. Kim's father Kim Jong-il pledged to visit the South after his summit with the late President Kim Dae-jung in 2000, but this never materialized before he died in 2011.
Those with liberal and neutral political views supported Kim's visit, according to the survey, while 49 percent of conservatives remained negative.
The opposition parties are saying Kim Jong-un "should apologize" for his regime's 2010 attacks that killed 50 South Koreans before coming to Seoul. They also said the North's leader must visit the National Cemetery to pat his respects to fallen South Korean heroes from the Korean War.
Kim told Moon at their meeting in Pyongyang in September this year that he was hoping to visit Seoul. Moon also told Kim ho could visit Mount Halla on Jeju Island if he wished to.