North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in raise their hands in unity after signing agreements during the inter-Korean summit at Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. Photo: Reuters TV frame grab

The Blue House, the South Korean Presidency, wants North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit Seoul for a summit on the symbolic date of March 1, the Seoul Daily reported on Wednesday evening.

The newspaper cited an unnamed “high-ranking government official” as its source.

March 1 is a critical date in Korean history. On that date 100 years ago, in 1919, Korea – then a Japanese colony – rose in nationwide protests to demand independence. Although the protests were crushed by colonial police, and Korea was only freed after Tokyo’s World War II defeat in 1945, the date powerfully resonates in both the Koreas.

Still, whether that summit takes place on that date will depend on the outcome of the anticipated North Korea-US summit, the paper added, citing an unnamed high-level government source.

If that widely awaited summit transpires, it would be a historic event – the first time a North Korean leader has ever set foot south of the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas.

While there are rumors that Kim’s grandfather, North Korean state founder Kim Il Sung, visited South Korea in the early months of the 1950-53 Korean War, these rumors have never been confirmed.

The two Korean leaders met three times in 2018, and were scheduled to meet in Seoul last December. However, that meeting did not take place for reasons that remain unclear clear.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator Kim Yong Chol is reportedly en route to Washington for meetings with his US counterpart, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, at the end of this week.

The two have made little, if any, progress on denuclearization or upgrading bilateral ties in the months since the summit between North Korea’s leader and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, 2018, but are expected to discuss preparations for a second summit.

That summit is expected to take place within the first two months of this year. Vietnam is being widely touted as the most likely location, but Asia Times understands that Thailand, too is a possible site. Hawaii and Singapore have also been suggested as summit sites.

If Kim and Trump realize a successful outcome at their expected summit in the weeks ahead, that could lay appropriate groundwork for Moon and Kim in their anticipated pow-wow in March.

North-South talks in 2018 have been hailed for thawing a formerly frozen relationship and even introducing an element of bonhomie into cross-DMZ relations, but have been overshadowed by international sanctions.

So, while the two Koreas have engaged in a number of communications, sporting exchanges, cultural exchanges and other joint projects, sanctions have prevented South Korea from economically engaging the impoverished North in any way.

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