March 24, 2011

Both Koreas Meeting March 29 To Discuss Volcano Research

Officials said on Thursday that South and North Korean experts will talk next week about their first joint research into volcanic activity in the peninsula's highest mountain.

The unification ministry said that the meeting will take place on Tuesday at a South Korean office near the cross-border buffer zone.

According to the ministry, the North said in its message to Seoul that three seismic experts and two aides would take part in the meeting on March 29.

Pyongyang's earthquake bureau proposed for the joint research to take place, citing concerns about activity at Mount Paekdu on the border between North Korea and China.

North Korea considers the mountain as a sacred site where its leader Kim Jong-II was born.  Schoolchildren are required to visit the mountain to pay respect to the ruling Kim dynasty.

The 8,990-foot volcano last erupted in 1903, but experts say that it may still have an active core.  Minor earthquakes increased in the area between 2002 and 2005.

The iconic mountain contains about one billion tons of water, which could drown its surrounding areas.

Unification minister Hyun In-Taek said in a statement that the joint research, if well coordinated by both sides, could develop into "a whole new level" of cross-border projects.