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N. Korea Releases Photos of Leader at Soccer Game

Posted November. 03, 2008 09:28,   


North Korean media such as the Korea Central News Agency, Korean Central TV and the Rodong Shinmun yesterday released photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il attending a soccer game between the two army teams “Mankyongpong” and “Chaebi.”

One of the 10 photos released by South Korea’s Unification Ministry was of Kim sitting in a chair and smiling. In two other photos, he was shown giving orders to officials while standing up.

The remaining photos were of the match and did not show Kim.

These photos of the North Korean leader were released 80 days after his last public appearance at an inspection of a military unit Aug. 14. The photos appeared to have been taken in fall, with Kim wearing a short-length dark yellow coat and the soccer players clad in long-sleeve jerseys.

Red-tinted leaves covered the adjacent mountains and trees and yellow autumn grass covered the soccer field.

Photos released Oct. 11 of Kim inspecting a female military unit are believed to have been taken in July and August.

The photos released yesterday showed a slightly thinner Kim moving his left hand awkwardly, in line with South Korean intelligence reports that the North Korean leader is recovering from surgery.

Kim Yeong-in, a neurology professor at Kangnam St. Mary’s Hospital in Seoul, said, “Kim Jong Il seems to be suffering from paralysis on his left side since he has his left thumb in his coat pocket. Kim Jong Il’s left hand looks weak in the photo in which he is sitting down.”

North Korea media reported that attending the game with Kim were Hyon Chol Hae, deputy director of general political department of the Korean People`s Army; Ri Myong Su, director of administrative department of the National Defence Commission; Kim Myong Guk, director of operations department of the Korean People`s Army; Jang Song Taek, director of the administration department of the Workers` Party; Ri Je Gang, first director of the organization and guidance department of the Workers’ Party; and Ri Jae Il, first director of Propaganda and Agitation department at the party.

Only Hyon, however, appeared in the photos, so experts say it is too early to conclude that Kim Jong Il has fully recovered.

A North Korea expert said, “If Kim Jong Il’s health is as good as shown in the photos, then video clips rather than photos could have been released to stave off internal unrest.”

Moreover, North Korean media reported that Kim attended the game in connection with the close of the 11th People`s Sports Contest, but the soccer field in the photo is believed to be one at a military unit in the suburbs.

A government official in Seoul said, “Analysis of when and where the photos were taken are now being done.”

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