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Speculation Rampant Over N. Korean Leader`s Health

Posted September. 11, 2008 09:05,   


The government is eager to get more information about the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his capability to rule his country in the wake of news reports saying he is gravely ill.

The Associated Press presented yesterday the most detailed news of Kim’s condition, quoting a U.S. intelligence official as saying Kim suffered a stroke.

In Seoul, the National Intelligence Service suggested the possibility of cerebral hemorrhage.

A stroke is a neurological condition that happens when blood vessels providing blood to the brain are either clogged or ruptured, thus damaging brain tissue. Cerebral hemorrhage refers to the gathering of blood inside brain tissue caused by a bursting of expanded intracerebral vessels.

Since the definition of stroke includes cerebral hemorrhage and cerebral infarction, the AP report is no different from data gathered by South Korean intelligence, though medical records from a doctor who saw Kim will confirm his detailed condition.

What matters is not the name of Kim’s disease but the severity of his condition, and if he can still control his country.

"If we categorize his possible conditions into death, unconscious, serious and mild, he is likely to be in the third category," one intelligence officer said.

Seoul intelligence based the categorization on whether Kim has maintained consciousness and can communicate with people. These are critical for Kim to keep his grip on power.

Unconsciousness means death. If he is conscious, he is either seriously or mildly ill depending on his ability to communicate.

Kim is believed to be in a wheelchair but capable of communication. This allows him to exercise control via his lieutenants.

“Since he is recovering from surgery, his speech will be clumsy and he`ll have difficulty walking,” said one Seoul official. “He continues to rule the country and there is no sign of a power vacuum.”

Considering the severity of a cerebral disease that has no cure and tends to relapse, Kim is likely to suffer from a condition in which he cannot move or communicate despite maintaining consciousness.

“Given that he`s 66 years old, we cannot rule out the possibility that it will take longer for him to recuperate and that he will alternate between gravely and mildly ill,” an intelligence insider said.

Both the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il stuck to a socio-political outlook on life to strengthen the communist dynasty ruled by one supreme leader. They also created a theory of social organism in which the leader is the brain, the Workers’ Party is the heart, and the people are the limbs.

The people will lose their socio-political life if they separate from their leader. It is ironic that Kim Jong Il, who infused his people with this theory, is suffering from a brain disease.

kyle@donga.com likeday@donga.com