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Rumors Fly Over N. Korean Leader`s Health

Posted September. 10, 2008 03:28,   


North Korean leader Kim Jong Il did not appear at the celebration of his country`s 60th birthday yesterday, leading to speculation that he is in ill health.

The North did not even hold a military parade or invite envoys from China, its closest ally.

A series of unusual events have fueled rumors surrounding Kim’s health.

▽ Unusual 60th anniversary

South Korea and the world paid sharp attention to whether Kim would see a mass of goose-stepping soldiers, a military parade and the gathering of more than one million people in Pyongyang for the occasion.

Seoul intelligence said North Korean soldiers were on standby at Pyongyang`s Mirim Airport near Kim Il Sung Square, where the parade was supposed to be held in the morning. The parade did not take place, however.

Instead, soldiers moved to Kim Il Sung Square in the afternoon, waiting until sunset.

North Korean media aired the recorded program "Rally to Celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Democratic People`s Republic of Korea,", which was held on the previous morning followed by a TV series and a program commemorating the anniversary, but there was no news of the anniversary event.

North Korea held a military parade but no rally on the 50th anniversary in 1998 and the 55th in 2003, both of which Kim attended. This year, however, only the rally was held the day before the anniversary.

▽ No Chinese envoys invited

Sources said China did not send envoys on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party or Foreign Ministry to the North. A Seoul official said Tuesday, "North Korea did not ask China to send envoys."

The parties to the six-way talks had hoped Chinese envoys to the North could make a breakthrough in the stalled negotiations after Pyongyang stopped its nuclear disablement process and restarted its nuclear facilities.

Every time the six-party talks have stalled, China has sent Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan or senior Communist Party official Wang Jiarui as envoys to bring the North back to the negotiating table.

▽ Rumors on Kim’s health

Rumors on the North Korean leader`s health is spreading as he suddenly disappeared three weeks ago and did not appear in the 60th anniversary event. A diplomatic source said, “Since Kim’s health condition worsened, he might not have asked for Chinese envoys.”

Seoul intelligence said three medical staff from the Chinese Liberation Army visited the North without entry visas in mid-August, and a French neurosurgeon arrived there Aug. 17. All of them were reportedly still there as of yesterday.

A government source in Seoul said, “Some say Kim Jong Il’s sister Kyong Hui might need medical treatment but given his no-show, there is a possibility that he might be the one getting medical treatment.”

Though rumors of Kim’s ill health have circulated several times, all turned out to be false. Verifying such rumors is also difficult.

kyle@donga.com jin0619@donga.com