Mr. Moon hopes that if Mr. Kim visits Seoul this month, he can use the meeting to help narrow the differences between Pyongyang and Washington and add momentum for a second Kim-Trump summit meeting. Negotiations have stalled since Mr. Trump met with Mr. Kim in June in Singapore, where Mr. Kim made a vague promise to “work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
A Kim visit would be a badly needed boost for Mr. Moon’s domestic standing as well.
Mr. Moon’s approval ratings have depended heavily on progress in his efforts to build and expand inter-Korean ties. They soared as high as 80 percent in the wake of his first summit meeting with Mr. Kim in April, but have recently slumped to 50 percent with deepening frustrations over the lack of progress in ending the North Korean nuclear problem, as well as youth unemployment and other economic issues.
A Kim visit would mark a new milestone in inter-Korean relations.
North and South Korea have held five summit meetings since 2000, three of them between Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon this year. But all five meetings took place in either Pyongyang or Panmunjom, a truce village straddling the inter-Korean border. Mr. Kim became the first North Korean leader to set foot on South Korean soil when he walked across the border in April to meet with Mr. Moon on the South Korean side of Panmunjom. But he has never visited Seoul. Neither did his father and grandfather, who had ruled North Korea before him.
Some South Korean news outlets have surmised that the two Koreas may have already agreed upon the details of Mr. Kim’s visit to Seoul later this month, but are withholding them until the last minute because of North Koreans’ concern for the security of their leader.
Mr. Moon’s critics say he is spoiling North Korea by appearing too eager for Mr. Kim’s visit.
“Our government’s submissive attitude can make North Korea arrogant and trigger a backlash from our people,” Sohn Hak-kyu, leader of the opposition Bareun Mirae Party, told reporters on Monday.
And Mr. Kim probably wouldn’t get the same welcome in Seoul that Mr. Moon received in Pyongyang, where tens of thousands lined the streets to greet him.
In recent weeks, political activists have held competing rallies in central Seoul, either touting a visit by Mr. Kim to Seoul or opposing it. Some officials hope that Mr. Kim will be able to address the South Korean Parliament, but conservative politicians have opposed the idea unless North Korea apologizes for starting the 1950-53 Korean War.