Incoming ROK president Yoon ‘meets US envoy on DPRK’

South Korea's president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a news conference at the National Assembly in Seoul on March 10, 2022. (KIM HONG-JI / POOL / AFP)

SEOUL – The Republic of Korea's President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol had a rare meeting on Tuesday with the visiting US envoy on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a source familiar with the event said on Wednesday, as both sides seek to coordinate DPRK policy under Seoul's new government.

US Special Representative Sung Kim arrived in Seoul on Monday for a five-day stay that included talks with his incumbent counterpart and officials on Yoon's transition team.

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Yoon's spokeswoman had initially said no formal meeting was scheduled between Yoon and Kim. But they attended a "private, casual wine dinner" on Tuesday – their first encounter since Yoon won last month's election – arranged by deputy parliament speaker Chung Jin-suk, who is an old friend of Kim's, a source familiar with the gathering told Reuters.

US Special Representative for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sung Kim speaks with his Republic of Korea (ROK) counterpart (not in frame) during their bilateral meeting at a hotel in Seoul, ROK, on June 21, 2021. (JUNG YEON-JE / POOL / AFP)

Yonhap news agency first reported the meeting. Yoon's transition team issued a statement that the dinner was privately organized by Chung and not meant a diplomatic event.

"I understand it was a friendly get-together, not intended to discuss serious policy issues such as the North's nuclear program," the source said on condition of anonymity, citing diplomatic sensitivity. The DPRK is also referred to as North Korea.

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Yoon's foreign minister nominee, Park Jin, separately met Kim on Wednesday, during which Park had said they would explore ways to step up cooperation.