Thursday, July 05, 2007

Footage of North Korea's leader indicate signs of possible illness

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in video shown this week looked thinner and appeared to have less hair than in April, raising speculation about his health.

The reclusive leader made a rare public appearance on Tuesday when he granted a surprise meeting to China's foreign minister in Pyongyang. Chinese television footage showed Kim shaking hands with the guest and brandishing a big smile.

On Thursday, however, South Korea's Dong-a Ilbo newspaper compared the latest Kim footage with that shown in April [and speculated that] such symptoms are common in a patient who has undergone heart surgery, citing an unidentified doctor at Seoul's respected Severance Hospital. Previous news reports have said that he had heart surgery in May and could not walk more than 30 meters (yards).

South Korea's main spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said last month that Kim has long had heart disease and diabetes. Kim's health has been a focus of international attention because his fate is believed to be tied to that of the isolated, nuclear-armed nation he leads.

[International Herald Tribune]

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