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Seoul joins 'sacred' volcano research

Scientists from South and North Korea could conduct joint research into an active volcano extolled in the North as the sacred birthplace of Kim Jong-il.

Seoul has agreed to discuss the project with Pyongyang, which could open the way for rare co-operation. North Korea proposed last week that volcanologists from the two countries discuss field surveys of Mount Paektu. The volcano last erupted in 1903, but minor quakes increased between 2002 and 2005.

South Korea proposed that private experts of the two Koreas meet first and discuss the issue at a South Korean border village on 29 March. Paektu is considered sacred by the North and touted as one of the peninsula's most beautiful sites. North Korean lore calls it the birthplace of Kim Jong-il, though Western experts say he was born in the Soviet Union.