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Video shows NK leader`s health apparently improving

Posted December. 31, 2010 10:05,   


North Korean TV released video footage of leader Kim Jong Il using his left hand Thursday, a sign that his health might be improving.

The state-run (North) Korean Central Television aired a documentary on Kim showing his visit to an apartment. He pulled the door handle of a wardrobe and raised his left hand to open the other door.

The station normally broadcasts collected video clips of Kim over a certain period of time. The documentary featured his activities from early September to early November.

The footage of Kim using his left hand was taken on Oct. 8, when he instructed people in a new apartment complex for artists near the Daedong River.

Kim is known to have suffered a stroke in August 2008, and despite receiving treatment, he could not use his left hand and leg well. When Kim visited China in May this year, a Japanese reporter took a video of Kim walking with a limp.

Since then, pictures of Kim have shown his left hand unnaturally hanging down and placed in his overcoat’s pocket.

The latest footage could be proof that his health is improving. Yoo Kyung-ho, a neurology professor at Hallym University Medical Center, told The Dong-A Ilbo over the phone, “Had he received rehabilitative treatment, that would be a natural stage of recovery.”

“Generally, within six months of rehabilitative treatment, paralyzed muscles begin recovery,” Yoo said. “Normally, a patient can use large muscles first from the shoulders and elbows to the fingers. Grabbing a wardrobe handle means a patient can use his or her fingers.”

Shin Yong-sam, head of the Stroke Center at Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, said, “When Kim first suffered a stroke, he limped but could walk. At the time, his left hand looked like it was still functioning,” adding, “Based on the video footage, he recovered without suffering a relapse.”

Yoo Ho-yeol, professor of North Korean studies at Korea University in Seoul, said, “If Kim’s condition improves, the speed of the power transfer to his youngest son Jong Un will likely be adjusted,” adding, “Instead of appointing Jong Un as supreme commander of North Korea’s military or vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, Kim can further solidify the basis of the power transfer through idolization work.”

The possibility of the North Korean leadership manipulating the scene cannot be ruled out, however.

Jeon Beom-seok, a neurology professor at Seoul National University Hospital, said, “The use of the left hand can be proof of Kim’s improved health, but assessing his condition is tough,” adding, “In particular, to arouse expectations of Kim’s recovery, the North seems to focus on the use of his left hand. So it’s difficult to guess his condition.”

kyle@donga.com woohaha@donga.com