North Korean leader Kim Jong-il 'has cancer'

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kim Jong-il

The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, is reported to have pancreatic cancer according to YTN, a South Korean news channel. The unconfirmed reports state that Kim was diagnosed last year, at about the same time of a reported stroke.

YTN broke the news using unidentified sources within South Korea and China. However, the National Intelligence Service of South Korea could not confirm the illness, while a South Korean Ministry of Unification spokesperson also indicated he had no knowledge of the reported illness.

Kim made a rare public appearance on July 8 of this year to mark the 15th anniversary of his father’s death. According to reports, Kim was looking “gaunt” and walking with a limp. 67-year-old Kim has suffered from several severe health problems in the past few years and speculation about his health has come under doubt several times.

It is reported that Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, is the chosen heir to North Korean leadership, but North Korea has yet to confirm this.

Kim Jong-il took over power in 1994 after his father’s death. He took over the National Defence Commission of North Korea and as leader of the Workers' Party of Korea but not the presidency. Kim's father, Kim Il-sung, was subsequently named Eternal President of the Republic.

Daniel Pinkston, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group said that the illness would explain the "rapidness of some of [North Korea's] actions over the past eight months or so, with the attempted satellite launch, nuclear test and missile tests." Pinkston feels the recent actions are for appearances of normalcy and to shore up internal support for a transition of power to Kim Jong-un. "Now they are going through things as if they have a plan or schedule," added Pinkston.

Pancreatic cancer is often a life-threatening disease, with the National Cancer Institute estimating a five-year survival rate of 5.5%.