North Korea says it will send back a South Korean man who entered the North illegally, in an apparent conciliatory gesture.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said Friday that Kim Sang-geun entered North Korea through a third country after having unspecified difficulties living in the South.

It said Kim asked to live in North Korea but it decided to repatriate him next week.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said it will take custody of Kim.

Analysts say Kim's return suggests that impoverished North Korea is still interested in improving ties with South Korea. In the past North Korea has been accused of using foreigners who crossed its borders as a propaganda tool by bringing false espionage charges against them.