Wednesday, October 29, 2008

North Korea: Kim Jong Il in hospital

Seemingly ending weeks of wild speculation, Japanese and South Korean reports indicate that the North Korean leader has been hospitalized. The NY Times reports:
Kim Jong Il is hospitalized but still capable of making decisions, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said Tuesday.

Citing intelligence reports, Aso said in a parliamentary session that "there are reports he has been hospitalized."

"However, it's not believed that he is completely incapable of making decisions," Aso said.

If Kim, 66, had been incapable of decision-making, intelligence officials believe, "we would be seeing different developments" in North Korea, Aso said.
An AP report cites South Korean newspaper report that also says the North Korean leader had been hospitalized.
The report in the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper cited an unnamed government official in saying intelligence obtained Sunday suggested "a serious problem" with Kim's health.

Kim, 66, reportedly suffered a stroke and underwent brain surgery in August. North Korea, however, denies he is ill.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service and its Unification Ministry said Wednesday they were aware of the Dong-a report but could not confirm it.
AP also reports on the execution of some people convicted of trying to escape North Korea. That article notes that "Japan's Fuji Television reported that Kim's son, Kim Jong Nam, flew recently to Paris to recruit a neurosurgeon to treat his father." The report continues:
The French weekly Le Point reported on its Web site Tuesday that a French neurosurgeon who is a close friend of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was traveling to North Korea to give medical care to Kim. But Le Point said it had contacted the doctor, Francois-Xavier Roux, who insisted he was in Beijing for several days — and not North Korea.

Roux's hospital in Paris told The Associated Press late Tuesday that its offices were closed for the day, and that no one was available to answer questions about him. The French Foreign Ministry confirmed that Roux knows Kouchner.
ROKdrop and JapanProbe blog have further details concerning the son's trip to Paris and the French surgeon. Last week some photos of Kim Jong Il were released, but their authenticity has been questioned reports mySinchew (which posts one of the -- possibly fake -- photos). Blogger Yinsushin believes the North Korean military machine is not adversely effected by these developments:
Still, despite economic problems, rumors of social crises, and questions of succession, North Korea’s military development seems to be steady and progressing, rather than stagnant (for everything but missile development) as we had seen in the past decade. It suggests stability of the regime to continue to develop long-term enhancements to the North Korean military structure. Foreign desire to see instability in the North Korean regime may be more wishful thinking than based on reality.
Meanwhile, VOA reports that South Korean groups are launching hot air balloons filled with leaflets from boats positioned offshore North Korea. The North has threatened to respond with an "advanced pre-emptive strike of our own style" that "will reduce everything... to debris, not just setting it on fire." According to Reuters, the government of South Korean PM Lee had asked the anti-North groups to stop distributing the leaflets, noting that:
The North's official cabinet newspaper said last week the leaflets were "getting on the nerves of the army and people of the DPRK (North Korea)," and could lead to a nuclear war.

A new press release at the KCNA (North Korea news service) concerns the North's displeasure and threats with regards to the leaflet drops. The VOA story indicated that "Tuesday's statement uses some of the most explicit military-themed language since Mr. Lee took office in January."

With the revered leader incapacitated, I imagine that such talk most likely amounts to bluster. Perhaps, indeed, an opportune moment has arrived for the South to reach across to the people of the North -- by whatever means is available. On the other hand, suppose the gravely ill dictator contemplates going out with a bang?
At this juncture, there is much the world needs to know about North Korea and its leader -- but does not.
Wikipedia's biography of Kim Jong Il


  1. The DPRK is going to start a nuclear exchange with the South over LEAFLETTING? Good lord, are these people completely unhinged, or is the south engaging in some hyperbole of its own?

  2. J-P,

    Worse, according to KCNA:

    "The advanced preemptive strike of our own style is based on a preemptive strike beyond imagination relying on striking means more powerful than a nuclear weapon."


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