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Friday, September 19, 2008

Kim Jong-il


On 9 September 2008, various sources reported that after he did not show up that day for a military parade celebrating North Korea's 60th anniversary, US intelligence agencies believed Kim might be "gravely ill" after having suffered a stroke. He had last been seen in public a month earlier.[44][45] A former CIA official said earlier reports of a health crisis were likely to be accurate. North Korean media remained silent on the issue. An Associated Press report said analysts believed Kim had been supporting moderates in the foreign ministry, while North Korea's powerful military was against negotiations with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States aimed towards ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons. Some US officials noted that soon after rumours about Kim's health were publicized a month before, North Korea had taken a "tougher line in nuclear negotiations." In late August North Korea's official news agency reported the government would "consider soon a step to restore the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon to their original state as strongly requested by its relevant institutions." Analysts said this meant "the military may have taken the upper hand and that Kim might no longer be wielding absolute authority."[46]

By 10 September there were conflicting reports. Unidentified South Korean government officials said Kim had undergone surgery after suffering a minor stroke and had apparently "intended to attend the 9 September event in the afternoon but decided not to because of the aftermath of the surgery." High ranking North Korean official Kim Yong-nam said, "While we wanted to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the country with General Secretary Kim Jong-Il, we celebrated on our own." Song Il-Ho, North Korea's ambassador said, "We see such reports as not only worthless, but rather as a conspiracy plot." Seoul's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that "the South Korean embassy in Beijing had received an intelligence report that Kim collapsed on 22 August."[47] The New York Times reported Kim was "very ill and most likely suffered a stroke a few weeks ago, but U.S. intelligence authorities do not think his death is imminent."[48] The BBC noted that the North Korean government denied these reports, stating that Kim's health problems were "not serious enough to threaten his life,"[49][50] although they did confirm that he had suffered from a stroke on 15 August.[51]

Japan's Kyodo news agency reported on September 14 that "Kim collapsed on August 14 due to stroke or a cerebral hemorrhage, and that Beijing dispatched 5 military doctors at the request of Pyongyang. Kim will require a long period of rest and rehabilitation before he fully recovers and has complete command of his limbs again, as with typical stroke victims." Japan's Mainichi Shimbun daily said Kim occasionally lost consciousness since April.[52] Japan's Tokyo Shimbun on September 15 added that Kim has consciousness "but he needs some time to recuperate from the recent stroke, with some parts of his hands and feet paralyzed. The U.S. move is one cause for the stroke. Chairman Kim is now staying at the Bongwha State Guest House on the outskirts of Pyongyang."[53]

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