The two Koreas will hold a working-level meeting later this week to discuss resuming the joint excavation of an ancient royal palace in the North, sources here with an inter-Korean association of historians said on Monday.
The group began the project to uncover the remains of Manwoldae, the royal palace of the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392) in the North Korean border town of Kaesong in May 2007. But South Korea suspended the excavation three years later in May 2010 as part of its punitive steps against Pyongyang for the sinking of a South Korean naval ship.
"We plan to hold a working-level contact with our North Korean counterparts as early as late this week in Kaesong," a South Korean affiliated with the academic association said. "We will go into preparations for the meeting, starting with applying for government permission for a visit to the North."
Another source here with the group said Pyongyang has proposed that the meeting be held on Friday.
Seoul's Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said during a meeting with reporters last Friday that the government would permit the inter-Korean contact if requested.
During the working-level talks, South Korean historians and experts working for the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage plan to discuss in detail about where and when to excavate the artifacts with their North Korean counterparts, the sources said.
The excavation will most likely resume in early November for a month-long run since the ground usually freezes in mid-December and it becomes difficult to unearth the remains, according to the sources.
The resumption of the long-suspended project would mean much to the South Korean government, which has recently pledged more "flexibility" in its North Korea policy in an effort to calm heightened tensions on the divided peninsula.
Observers said the joint excavation might help improve inter-Korean ties, which have become strained after two deadly border incidents last year prompted Seoul to suspend nearly all exchanges with Pyongyang.
In September, Seoul allowed a group of Buddhists to visit Pyongyang to attend a Buddhist ceremony, which marked the first approval of a religious visit here since the punitive steps were put in place.
South Korean orchestral conductor Chung Myung-whun returned the same month from a trip to North Korea, saying the two Koreas agreed to stage joint performances.