North Korean leader Kim Jong-il may be sick as he has been absent from public view for weeks, a South Korean newspaper reported yesterday, saying foreign doctors recently arrived in the communist country.
Five Chinese physicians entered North Korea about a week ago and are still there, the Chosun Ilbo said, citing a South Korean government official who had seen an intelligence report detailing the doctors’ movements.
The official told the newspaper that the doctors might have been called in to treat high-level officials, including Kim.
The 66-year-old leader has been out of public view for about three weeks.
The country’s Korean Central News Agency last reported on Kim being out in public on Aug. 14, when he inspected a military unit. KCNA is believed to carry reports every time Kim attends a public event. The agency never comments on Kim’s health.
An official with South Korea’s main spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said yesterday he has no information to indicate Kim’s health has worsened. He spoke on condition of anonymity saying agency officials should not be identified by name.
The National Intelligence Service has said Kim has chronic heart disease and diabetes but that they are not serious enough to affect his public activity.
North Korea is due to next week mark 60 years since its foundation. The isolated country usually throws a lavish military parade to mark the anniversary that is attended by Kim. If he doesn’t attend, this could indicate his health has worsened, the newspaper quoted the official as saying.
Kim’s health has been a focus of intense media attention because his fate is believed to be closely tied to that of the totalitarian nation he inherited from his father Kim Il-sung in communism’s first hereditary transfer of power.
Last year, media reports said a team of German doctors visited the North and they might have performed heart surgery on Kim. The doctors denied the reports. Other unconfirmed reports had earlier claimed Kim was so sick that he could not even walk 30m.
Later, Kim denied he had health problems when he met former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun in Pyongyang for the second-ever summit between the two divided nations.
The isolated regime’s state media never comment on Kim’s health — a taboo in the communist country.