A ban on public discussion of reunification with North Korea will be lifted, but talks with representatives of the communist country on reuniting the divided peninsula still will only be allowed at the government level, a top official said Thursday.

Culture and Information Minister Chung Han-mo said students and dissidents will be allowed to talk about reunification, but the government would not let them meet with North Koreans.The decision gives official approval to a policy that has been in effect for several months and sets in motion a process to revise draconian laws prohibiting nearly all debate on the emotional issue of reuniting the physically and ideologically split peninsula.

However, it also sets the government and student activists on a collision course. About 10,000 students agreed last month to walk to the border June 10 to meet with their communist counterparts.

The government has said it will block the march and the main bridge across the Imjin River into the Demilitarized Zone was closed late last month for "repairs."

"Pursuant to the basic policy of democratization enunciated in launching the Sixth Republic, it has been decided to actively liberalize debate on the unification issue," Chung said after President Roh Tae-woo presided over a cabinet meeting.

The government will "progressively increase public access to information and data about North Korea and the rest of the communist bloc with a view to energizing healthy discussions about unification."