(AFP) – Sep 10, 2008
SEOUL (AFP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has suffered a stroke but is still able to run the country and will recover, South Korea's intelligence agency told parliament Wednesday.
Legislator Won Hye-Young quoted intelligence officials as telling a closed session that Kim had suffered a stroke or cerebral haemorrhage but is in "recoverable condition."
The 66-year-old is not fit enough for public activities but can speak without difficulty, Won quoted the National Intelligence Service (NIS) officials as saying.
Kim is known to have been treated by foreign doctors, the officials said.
The agency believes there will be no power vacuum in the communist state because Kim can recover, Won said in remarks confirmed by other lawmakers. It was not clear when the reclusive North Korean leader suffered the stroke.
An NIS spokeswoman confirmed to AFP it has information that Kim is recovering "after intensive treatment."
Kim failed to appear at a major parade Tuesday to celebrate the nation's 60th anniversary. US and South Korean officials said afterwards he may have suffered a stroke.
The North's de facto head of state Kim Yong-Nam told Japan's Kyodo News in Pyongyang there is "no problem" with the top leader's condition.
But he appeared to indicate that Kim Jong-Il s absence from the parade was unscheduled.
"While we wanted to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the country with General Secretary Kim Jong-Il, we celebrated on our own," Kim Yong-Nam said.
Kyodo said there were no signs of concern in the city, with families strolling and visiting food stalls.
Official media said Kim on Wednesday sent a congratulatory birthday telegram to his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad.
The official Korean Central News Agency later Wednesday said "The Grand Gymnastic and Artistic Performance 'Arirang'" was held that day in more anniversary celebrations.
It said, "It was enjoyed by senior party, army and state officials," but made no mention of Kim.
An unidentified Seoul government official told Yonhap news agency earlier that Kim had undergone surgery after the stroke but said his condition was not life-threatening.
"It seems that he had intended to attend the September 9 event in the afternoon but decided not to because of the aftermath of the surgery," the official said.
Kim's illness comes amid deadlock in a six-nation nuclear disarmament deal and fears that the regime -- which carried out its first atom bomb test two years ago -- intends to restart its programme.
Kim is known to suffer from diabetes and heart problems and there have been several reports in the past of him receiving treatment.
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak called an emergency meeting of top aides to discuss the situation.
Presidential spokesman Lee Dong-Kwan said the government has been analysing intelligence for some time and had anticipated that Kim would be absent from Tuesday's parade.
Seoul's Chosun Ilbo newspaper said Tuesday that Kim reportedly collapsed on August 22. Chosun had earlier reported that five Chinese doctors had been in North Korea for more than a week, possibly to treat Kim.
Yang Moo-Jin, of Seoul's University of North Korean Studies, told AFP: "It is quite certain that some French and Chinese experts have entered North Korea to treat Kim Jong-Il but it remains unknown what condition he is in."
Kim's health has been the subject of intense speculation since he took over from his father, who died in 1994, in the communist world's only dynastic succession. He has not publicly nominated any successor.
The defence ministry in Seoul said no particular North Korean troop movements had been detected and no unusual radio traffic had been heard.
The North, one of the world's most isolated and impoverished countries, promised to shut down its nuclear programme after its 2006 test.
But it has halted work to disable its plutonium-producing plants, and says it will start repairing them because of the deadlock over verification of its nuclear disclosures.
The North is also suffering particularly acute food shortages this year, relying on outside aid to feed millions, and its economy is foundering.
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