South Korean officials say the highest-ranking North Korean defector, a sharp critic of the North's leaders, will be allowed to freely travel overseas.
Until now, South Korean officials refused to let Hwang Jang-yop travel abroad, fearing he would become a target for assassination.
Since his 1997 defection, Hwang has only been allowed to travel overseas once. The 85-year-old was the architect of the North's philosophy of ("juche" or) self-reliance, and he once tutored Pyongyang's current leader Kim Jung Il.
He later became a fierce critic of the North.
Hwang has been kept at a secret location under tight security since he defected.
Last week, when South Korean officials announced the arrest of a North Korean spy, they revealed that one of the spy's objectives was to locate Hwang.