Getting information out of North Korea is notoriously difficult, but many say South Korea's intelligence service has been embarrassed by playing catch-up on Kim Jong-il's death.
US envoy Stephen Bosworth and South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator appear to be pressing for greater North-South dialogue before returning to the six-party talks.
In the wake of the North Korean attack on a South Korean island, the sense among many Koreans is they could carry on as usual. But some warn against complacency.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told a gathering of reporters that dynastic succession in North Korea for Kim Jong-un appears assured.
Separately, the chief US military commander in South Korea criticized the North over the sinking of the South Korean warship.
Four of 21 people who scaled the world's 14 tallest peaks came from South Korea, where mountain climbing is a pastime. Oh Eun-sun claims to be the first woman to do so.
The government has charged Park Dae-sung with spreading false rumors that cost the country billions.