The possibility of South Korean citizens traveling to North Korea on their own is officially on the table between Seoul and Washington.
Arriving in Washington on Wednesday, Lee Do-hoon, South Korea's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, told reporters that he plans to have a candid discussion about the matter with Stephen Biegun, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea.
He explained South Koreans' individual trips to the North are not banned under UN sanctions.
"We've been holding back on proceeding with this in terms of coordinating with Washington as there are matters that need to be solved internally. I think it's necessary for us to openly talk about each other's stance and ask for understanding."
On Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in said at his New Year's Press Conference that South Korean citizens traveling to North Korea individually does not violate international sanctions and thus can be considered.
The next day, Seoul's Unification Ministry echoed Moon's remark, saying once safety is guaranteed, individual cross-border trips can definitely be considered.
And on Thursday, the ministry told reporters it's currently "listing up" things that South and North Korea can work on independently, regardless of the U.S. position.
"The fact that we are consulting with the U.S. on the matter shows that we respect the sanctions framework set by the international community. We are looking for room to work on this under the sanctions."
Lee added that South Korea and the U.S. are seeking ways to revive the dialogue momentum between North Korea and the U.S.
In doing that, he explained Seoul looks to improve inter-Korean relations as a way to take the North Korea-U.S. nuclear talks forward.
The envoy is to stay in Washington until Saturday.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.