Mon, Aug 06, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Kim Jong-il's recent public appearances meant to strengthen rule, analysts say

AFP , SEOUL

North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong-il's increased public activities in the past week aim to strengthen his rule over the regime and dispel concerns about his health, analysts said yesterday.

The official Korean Central News Agency had reported Kim's visits to military units and a factory for the five consecutive days up until Saturday.

"His unusually active public activities -- coinciding with the summer vacation season -- aim to show to the public that he works restlessly and thus to strengthen his rule," said Ko Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert and professor at Dongguk University in Seoul.

Ko said Kim's army inspections meant to stress the security of the regime and his factory visit was to highlight the quest for economic growth.

Seo Jae-jin, an analyst of the Korea Institute for National Unification, told Yonhap news agency that the North Korean leader must have also wanted to end speculation about his health problems.

A team of German doctors visited Pyongyang in May, sparking rumors that Kim, 65, might have had a heart operation. This has never been confirmed.

South Korea's intelligence officials say Kim has long been known to be suffering from diabetes and heart problems, but there are no signs of his health seriously worsening.

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