SEOUL, OCT. 20 -- South Korea today released a dissident pastor who was jailed last year for making an illegal trip to North Korea, a prison official said.

Moon Ik Hwan, 72, was released from a hospital in the southwestern city of Chonju where he was having a check-up. He has a heart condition and problems with his thyroid gland.

Moon was serving a seven-year jail term for breaking South Korea's harsh anti-Communist National Security Law, which bans unofficial contact with the Communist North.

The prison official gave no further details about the release of Moon, a Protestant minister and adviser to the nationwide dissident organization Chonminyon. South Korea's domestic news agency Yonhap said he was released because of ill health.

Moon, who was sentenced in October last year, spent 10 days in North Korea at the invitation of President Kim Il Sung to talk to senior officials about reunification of the peninsula, divided in 1945.

His arrest and imprisonment, along with that of others who have made illegal visits to the North, has been cited by North Korea as a main stumbling block to progress in North-South dialogue, which has recently accelerated.

On Friday, South Korean Prime Minister Kang Young Hoon returned to Seoul from the second round of inter-Korean talks held in Pyongyang from Oct. 16 to 19. A third round is scheduled for December in Seoul.