South Korea says Kim in charge despite illness

Other News Materials 10 September 2008 16:06 (UTC +04:00)

North Korea's leader Kim Yong Il suffered a stroke but was recovering and still in charge of the country, a South Korean lawmaker said Wednesday, citing information from the country's intelligence service, reported dpa.

"There is no power vacuum in Pyongyang," opposition lawmaker Won Hye Young told journalists in Seoul after parliament was briefed in a closed-door meeting by intelligence officials.

"Information suggests Kim became unconscious after suffering a stroke. He has recovered from surgery, but is still receiving medical treatment," Won quoted the National Intelligence Service as saying.

Kim was not well enough for outdoor activities, but was recovering and still held the reins of government, Won said.

The information corresponds with US claims that Kim suffered a stroke at some point in the past two weeks.

North Korean officials earlier on Wednesday denied reports about Kim's illness, calling them "a conspiracy plot," Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

Kyodo quoted Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's number two official, as saying there was "no problem" with Kim Jong Il.

"We see such reports as not only worthless, but rather as a conspiracy plot," Song Il Ho, North Korea's main negotiator in talks with Japan on normalizing ties, was quoted as saying in Pyongyang.

Earlier, an unnamed intelligence officer in South Korea's presidential office told the Yonhap News Agency Wednesday, "It is certain that Kim Jong Il is sick."

Kim Jong Il's failure to appear at Tuesday's national parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of North Korea's founding further indicated the leader could be suffering health problems, a US official said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

"It does appear that Kim Jong Il has had a potential serious health setback - potentially a stroke," the official said in Washington, adding that the ailment probably occurred within the past two weeks.

Seoul has detected a number of "unusual goings-on" in North Korea, including reports of Western and Chinese doctors flying into the capital, Pyongyang.

On Wednesday, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak called a top-level meeting to address speculation about the 66-year-old dictator, who reportedly has had heart problems and suffers from diabetes.