South Korean officials say North Korea has agreed to accept medicine from Seoul to fight a swine flu outbreak.
Unification Minister Hyun In-taek Thursday said South Korea will send enough doses of the anti-viral Tamiflu medicine for 500,000 North Koreans.
Pyongyang announced this week it has confirmed nine cases of the H1N1 swine flu virus. It did not mention any deaths.
However, the humanitarian group Good Friends says informants in North Korea have reported the deaths of at least 49 people, most of them children. The Seoul-based group says North Korea ordered all schools to begin their winter holiday last week, a month earlier than usual, to try to prevent the virus from spreading.
North Korea also says it is "perfecting" its quarantine system.
Aid groups say communist North Korea regularly suffers chronic food and medicine shortages, as well as other humanitarian crises. The government of Kim Jong Il rarely acknowledges its domestic problems to the outside world.
The country suffered a deadly famine in the 1990s that was believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.