North Korea’s ruling party delayed the start of its biggest meeting in 30 years because of leader Kim Jong-il’s health, but his condition is not serious enough to cancel the conference, South Korea’s YTN television reported yesterday.
Kim, 68, is suspected of suffering a stroke in 2008. He appeared frail during trips to China over the past few months.
YTN television cited an intelligence official in Seoul as saying he was aware that Kim’s health had worsened after a whirlwind trip to China last month.
The source said Kim’s health concerns were not serious enough to warrant canceling the meeting, which would open soon.
South Korea’s unification ministry, which deals with North Korean affairs, declined comment on the YTN report, as did the foreign ministry.
The rare Workers’ Party conference was believed to have been called to accelerate succession plans. Analysts said Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, had been likely to be given an official title at the conference.
The secretive North’s ruling elite had been summoned to Pyongyang for the biggest political meeting since 1980, when Kim himself began his official role to succeed his father and state founder by taking on a Workers’ Party title at the age of 38.
The conference was meant to have taken place before Sept. 15.
Some foreign analysts believe Kim was seeking backing from China, his isolated country’s sole major supporter, behind his succession plans.
The bond between the two neighbors dates back to China’s support for North Korean communists and its support for the North in the Korean War.