11/06/2008, 00.00
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Ghost of Kim Jong-Il's health flits about North Korea

The official KCNA news agency continues to issue photos and statements attesting to the presence of the communist dictator at public events and state engagements. Analysts say that this is propaganda aimed at stopping rumors about his health. From Japan, confirmation that an expert in brain surgery went to Pyongyang recently.

Pyongyang (AsiaNews/Agencies) - North Korean government propaganda continues to release photos and eyewitness reports certifying the health of Kim Jong-Il, but doubts and perplexity remain about the real condition of the communist dictator.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has released the news that the "dear leader" has inspected two army installations, without specifying the day on which the visit was conducted. At the same time, it has published a pair of photos that show Kim Jong-Il together with a group of soldiers gathered around the dictator. "He highly praised them on their successes in training and put forward highly important tasks which would serve as guidelines for bolstering up the heroic Korean People's Army as invincible revolutionary armed forces."

According to official sources, Kim Jong-Il also attended a concert of classical music with a group of associates and soldiers, at which he "waved back to the cheering performers and audience and congratulated them on their successful presentation." The state news agency refers to a speech given by Kim, in which he said that "all the artistes would conduct dynamic revolutionary art activities in the future too, to powerfully encourage the army and people in the drive for accomplishing the cause of building a great prosperous powerful nation."

Despite all these statements, analysts and experts have serious doubts about the health condition of Kim Jong-Il, since no reliable news about him has been available for almost three months. The massive propaganda campaign is thought to be a response to the rumors about his illness, following which he is believed to be incapable of conducting state affairs. Some of these rumors say that Kim had a stroke in mid-August and is partially paralyzed.

The Japanese television station Fuji Television is reporting that a French brain surgery specialist has admitted going to Pyongyang in recent days; at first the doctor denied making the visit, but closed circuit television cameras in the Beijing airport showed him getting on a direct flight to the North Korean capital. After seeing the images, Francois-Xavier Roux, head of neurosurgery at the Paris hospital of St. Anne, admitted that he made the trip, but denied that he operated on Kim Jong-Il.

Speculations on the illness of the dictator are especially preoccupying because of the apparent lack of a plan for leadership succession and the fears of a vacuum of power in a nation closed off to the outside world and capable of making nuclear warheads.

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