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State media releases 'photo' of Kim Jong-il

Video by Richard TOMPSETT


Latest update : 2008-11-02

Official media say they have released photographs of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attending a soccer match. Kim has been notably absent from state functions in recent months, prompting widespread speculation about his health.

Click here to find out how the world's media have reported Kim's 'reappearance' in FRANCE 24's Press Review  


SEOUL - North Korea's official media said on Sunday its leader Kim Jong-il, thought to have suffered a stroke in August, attended a soccer match and released photographs showing him smiling and looking healthy.


A debilitated Kim, who was conspicuously absent from ceremonies in September to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his state's founding, raises questions about leadership in Asia's only communist dynasty and who was making decisions concerning its nuclear arsenal, analysts have said.


"After watching the match, Kim Jong-il congratulated the footballers on their success in the match, expressing great satisfaction over a high level of the game played by them," the North's KCNA news agency said, without mentioning when the match was played.


Kim, 66, is seen wearing sunglasses and sitting in what appears to be a special viewing box in one of the photographs provided by South Korea's unification ministry.


The ministry declined to comment on the pictures.


In the undated pictures, one of which shows him standing and talking, Kim wears autumn clothes and has a full head of hair, even though intelligence sources said he may have had brain surgery in August.


Last month, North Korea's official media reported for the first time in about 50 days that Kim had made public appearances, but experts said photos released then may have been shot months earlier, fuelling more speculation about his health.


KCNA said in its Sunday report that a number of high-ranking Communist Party and military officials attended the soccer match with Kim.


Kim last week also failed to attend the funeral of one of the most senior members of the communist state, the South said, again raising questions if he is fit enough to appear in public.


Kim has attended funerals for lower-ranking party officials before but did not attend the ceremony for one of the state's top-ranking cadres who was one of the North's old-guard revolutionaries that helped found the state.


Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said intelligence indicated that Kim was probably in hospital but still in control of the state. The South's spy chief said Kim was on the mend and still calling the shots.

Date created : 2008-11-02