North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had a second stroke late last month, according to reports in Japan.
US and South Korean officials said he suffered a stroke in August, and the second in late October has affected the movement of his left arm and leg and also his ability to speak, Japanese broadcaster TBS said quoting a source in South Korea.
The “Dear Leader’s” health problems have raised questions about succession in Asia’s only communist dynasty and about who is making decisions concerning its nuclear weapons programme.
The North has released undated still photographs in recent weeks of Kim in public, but analysts said there has been no definitive and timely image that shows him in good health.
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“Kim is undergoing rehabilitation and they (North Korea) are confident that he can make an appearance at some point,” said Masao Okonogi, Korea expert at Keio University in Tokyo.
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Even though North Korea is one of the world’s most closed countries, its citizens have probably heard rumours that Kim had a health setback, prompting the state to release the photographs of him at a football match and inspecting troops, analysts said.
“The fact that they cannot provide conclusive photographic evidence that he is alive now shows me that he is incapacitated,” said Brian Myers, an expert on the North’s propaganda at Dongseo University in South Korea.
“As much as they like uncertainty in the rest of the world, they hate uncertainty among their own people. They are under enormous pressure to let their people know that their leader is alive and well and they cannot do it,” he said.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry and spy agency could not immediately confirm the reports of a second stroke.