Artemis astronauts engage in lunar surface operations a short distance from a generic lander and rover in this NASA artist’s concept.

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is in last-minute negotiations with the United States to join NASA’s Artemis program, a news outlet here reported May 18, citing government sources.

The negotiations are underway between U.S. officials and South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Science and ICT with the goal of reaching a deal before the May 21 summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden at the White House, according to Edaily. If it happens, the agreement will be included in a joint statement to be issued by the two leaders, it said.

“NASA welcomed our intent to join the Artemis Project,” a science ministry official was quoted as saying.

The two countries had a director-level online meeting May 7, during which they discussed terms of agreement, according to the report. Participants included officials from NASA, U.S. Department of Defense, South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Korea Aerospace Research Institute and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, it said. 

“There will be a positive outcome sooner or later,” a science ministry official told Dong-A Science, a science magazine. “We have had continued talks with NASA over the need for South Korea to join Artemis since eight countries signed Artemis Accords last year.” 

The official said the move to join the Artemis program was in line with “our continued commitment to strengthening partnership with NASA” when it comes to space exploration. The official said the U.S. has also played its part in bolstering the partnership, citing NASA’s contribution to “ShadowCam” to South Korea’s first robotic lunar exploration mission, Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), as an example. ShadowCam is the nickname of a lunar reconnaissance orbiter camera, developed by Arizona State University and Malin Space Science Systems, which NASA contributed to KPLO that is set to launch in August 2022 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to image the moon. In March, NASA selected nine scientists to support the mission. 

“We will make a formal announcement when a deal is done,” the official said. 

Park Si-soo covers space industries in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. Park worked at The Korea Times — South Korea's leading English language newspaper — from 2007 to 2020. He earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Korea...