Saturday, October 11, 2008

DPRK Television Shows Photos of Kim Jong-Il Inspecting Military

Kim Jong Il, DPRK
Originally uploaded by panafnewswire
NKorea TV shows photos of Kim inspecting military

SEOUL (AFP) - - North Korean television on Saturday showed photographs of Kim Jong-Il, the first time in almost two months the reportedly ailing leader has been pictured by the communist state's official media.

Chosun Chung-ang TV carried 10 still pictures of Kim, 66, inspecting a women's artillery battery but did not say when the visit was made.

It was the first time since mid-August that official media has carried a photograph of the reclusive leader.

After he failed to appear on September 9 for a parade marking the country's 60th anniversary, South Korean officials said he had suffered a stroke around mid-August. They said he underwent brain surgery but is recovering well.

On October 4 state media said the leader attended a football match but did not specify when or carry photographs.

The still photos shown Saturday, a day after Kim failed to appear for ceremonies marking the anniversary of the communist party, showed him wearing sunglasses and chatting with soldiers, clapping or watching a parade.

Others showed him standing with his arms folded across his chest or hands clasped behind his back, a suggestion that he was moving normally. Some reports have said that Kim suffered partial paralysis after the stroke.

His hair appeared as bouffant as before and his chubby but ageing face looked similar to photos before his reported stroke.

The TV carried no video footage.

The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) earlier Saturday reported Kim's inspection of the women's battery of Korean People's Army Unit 821. It also did not say when he made the visit.

"Walking in the compound of the barracks, he watched the thick verdure formed by trees of various species," it said.

"He had a photo session with the service persons of the battery. He was accompanied by KPA Generals Hyon Chol Hae and Ri Myong Su," it added.

Kim expressed satisfaction that "the company soldiers are performing their duties with an utmost readiness against the enemy's aggressive movements which are getting serious day by day," KCNA reported.

North Korean media usually report Kim's public appearances belatedly without giving specific dates.

Kim's health is the subject of intense speculation since he has not publicly nominated a successor to run the impoverished and nuclear-armed nation. He officially took over from his father, founding president Kim Il-Sung, in 1997.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency, which monitors the North's official media, said broadcasters in Pyongyang on Friday carried a lengthy statement from Kim appealing for loyalty.

Yonhap said the statement was intended for release on September 9. It was not clear why it was carried belatedly but it is unusual for such a statement to be issued under Kim's name.

Kim called for solidarity and loyalty to himself and urged the conservative government of South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak to abide by agreements signed with previous liberal governments in Seoul.

"Ideological struggles must be stepped up to prevent any modicum of capitalist ideology and lifestyle from intruding," Kim said in the statement.

"We must continue putting the greatest efforts to strengthen our defence capability...the most important task for strengthening the People's Army is to uphold the one-man leadership of the Supreme Commander (Kim Jong-Il)," he said.

Speculation about his health coincided with major problems in an international deal to scrap North Korea's nuclear programmes in return for diplomatic concessions and energy aid.

Reports from several countries have said the United States is close to removing North Korea from a terrorism blacklist in the hope of saving the crumbling six-country nuclear disarmament deal.

But the US State Department acknowledged Friday it must bridge gaps with its partners over a plan to verify the disarmament before it strikes Pyongyang from a terrorism blacklist.

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