North Korea and its southern rival have reportedly agreed to discuss resuming formal dialogue after the communist state sent its highest-level delegation to Seoul.
South Korea's unification ministry said on Saturday that the two sides had agreed to work on resuming formal, high-level talks, which have been effectively suspended for seven months.
"The two sides agreed to discuss details for the resumption of the high-level contact," the ministry said in a statement.
The agreement came during a surprise visit to South Korea by three top-ranking Pyongyang officials, two of them close aides to the North's supreme leader, Kim Jong Un.
Hwang Pyong So: Effectively Kim Jong Un's deputy. Head of the army's political bureau, and also the supreme military council's vice chairman.
Choe Ryong Hae: A close aide to Kim who heads the national sports agency.
Kim Yang Gon: A top aide who has for years worked on North-South ties.
Seoul has been urging the North to resume the talks for several months, but until now Pyongyang had spurned the request, partly in irritation over the South's military drills with the US.
The ministry statement said the North Korean delebation had expressed a "willingness" to restart the dialogue between late October and early November.
The last high-level talks were held in Seoul in February and resulted in the North hosting a reunion for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
The visit coincided with the ending ceremony of the Asian Games, being held in Incheon near Seoul, and amid speculation that the North's leader may be in poor health due to obesity.
Kim has not been seen in public since September 3 and state-controlled media showed him in July limping at a ceremony, and last week again broadcast the footage.
There have been long-running rumours that a coup had taken place in the country. North Korean officials at the UN have dismissed the speculation.
The two Koreas are technically still at war because their war ended in a truce and not a peace treaty.
The North has been under UN sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests, which deepened its international isolation but it has expressed willingness to return to talks with key world powers including the US and China.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies