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Kim Jong Il Holds Rare Meeting with Senior South Korean Official

In this photo released from the South Korean Unification Ministry, South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, left, poses with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Friday
North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, has held a surprise meeting with a South Korean official who has been visiting Pyongyang. The meeting comes as Seoul continues to push its neighbor back to nuclear disarmament talks.

Officials in Seoul say Pyongyang informed South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young of the unexpected meeting just hours before he was to return to Seoul on Friday morning.

No details about the discussions were immediately available.

The meeting comes as Seoul is urging the North to end its year-long boycott of multinational talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear weapons capabilities.

Cheon Hyun-chun, with Seoul's Korean Institute of National Unification, says the importance of the meeting with the reclusive Mr. Kim should not be underestimated.

Mr. Cheon says Mr. Kim may use the meeting to convey an important message to South Korea.

Mr. Chung, who returns to Seoul later Friday, was in Pyongyang to attend celebrations commemorating a historic 2000 summit between the two countries.