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S. Korea lifts temporary ban on visits to N. Korea
SEOUL, Jan. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has lifted a temporary ban it placed on visits to North Korea in the wake of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, a Seoul official said Tuesday.

   The government suspended all visits to North Korea on Dec. 19 after the communist state announced the death of its 69-year-old leader. The only exception was visits to an inter-Korean industrial park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.

   South Koreans are required by law to receive state approval before traveling to the North, as the two sides remain in a technical state of war following the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

   "As the mourning period for Chairman Kim (Jong-il) has ended, we will act accordingly when civilians apply for a visit to North Korea," said an official at the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

   No individuals or groups are currently awaiting approval, the official added.

   North Korea held a funeral ceremony for Kim last Wednesday and a memorial service on Thursday to wrap up a 13-day mourning period for the late leader.

   Visits will continue to be restricted, however, under a set of sanctions South Korea imposed on the communist regime for sinking a southern warship in March 2010. Pyongyang denies any role in the torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors.

   Seoul has allowed only private aid groups or religious and cultural leaders to visit the North since then.

   hague@yna.co.kr
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