SEOUL, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could make a surprise visit to South Korea before the end of the year, considering his risk-taking leadership style and his characteristic of honoring promises, a South Korean expert said Monday.
Talk of the possibility of Kim visiting the South has gained significant traction after U.S. President Donald Trump indicated during a meeting with President Moon Jae-in that it doesn't matter if Kim's visit to the South takes place before he holds a second summit with the North's leader.
Moon said Trump shared the view that Kim's visit to the South could serve as momentum playing a positive role in denuclearization talks between the United States and the North. Trump was also quoted as asking Moon to relay his good-will message when Kim visits Seoul.
Kim promised to visit Seoul before year's end when he held his third summit with Moon in Pyongyang in September. But the prospects of his trip have since dimmed as nuclear talks between the U.S. and the North have stalled over Pyongyang's demand for sanctions relief and the U.S.'s demand for more denuclearization measures.
Trump's remarks kept the prospects of Kim's trip alive.
"Considering his leadership style, I think it's difficult to rule out the possibility of Kim making a surprise visit to the South within this year," Kim Il-gi, a researcher with the Institute for National Security Strategy, said during a forum with foreign diplomats.
"First, he is the type of a leader willing to take risks for practical gains. Second, he is a type that makes sure to keep promises. He also faces a need to get this (promise-keeping) image imprinted in the international community," the expert said.
If realized, Kim's trip would mark the first time that the North's highest leader has set foot in the South's capital since the division of the Korean Peninsula, something that has long been considered nearly unthinkable in the South.
All inter-Korean summits have taken place either in Pyongyang or at the border village of Panmunjom.
Kim In-tae, another analyst with the institute, said that the North Korean leader would be establishing a significant legacy if he decides to visit Seoul.
"It would be recorded as the first trip to the South in three generations," he said. "Deciding to make the visit itself would carry meaning as a significant political achievement."
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