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North Korean TV shows photos of healthy Kim Jong-il

©

Latest update : 2008-10-11

Recent images of North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong-il inspecting a women's military unit on state television contradicts last month's reports that Kim, 66, had taken severely ill in August.

SEOUL - North Korea's state TV broadcast pictures of Kim Jong-il on Saturday as the reclusive country stepped up its campaign to show its leader was healthy after reports surfaced last month he may have suffered a stroke.

U.S. and South Korean officials said Kim, 66, may have taken severely ill in August, raising questions about succession in Asia's only communist dynasty and who was making decisions on its nuclear programme.

Last week, Kim made his first public appearance in nearly 50 days when he attended a soccer match, according to reports from the North's state media monitored in Seoul.

His state's media said early Saturday he inspected a women's military unit. Images of that visit were later broadcast on state TV, the first such photographs of Kim taking part in a recent event in nearly two months, the South's Yonhap news agency said.

The North's TV broadcaster did not say when the inspection took place, but it showed pictures of Kim in sunglasses posing and talking with the women soldiers, according to Yonhap, which monitored the broadcast.

The North's KCNA news agency said of the visit: "walking in the compound of the barracks, he (Kim) watched the thick verdure formed by trees of various species .... and praised the women soldiers for having tended even a single tree and a blade of grass of the country with ardent patriotism."

Yonhap said Kim appears to have lost some weight but he was shown as being active.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said on Friday Kim failed to appear at a ceremony marking the anniversary of his communist party. Kim often appears at related events where he is seen by tens of thousands of North Koreans who shout praises in unison.

The exact health of Kim, known at home as the "Dear Leader", is one of the North's most closely guarded secrets.

South Korean intelligence sources said they believed Kim was recovering from his illness and that he had not lost his grip on power.
 

Date created : 2008-10-11

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