North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, wearing glasses, watches a soccer game between teams of the North Korean People’s Army in this photo released by the North Korean Central News Agency via the Korea News Service in Tokyo, Sunday. The news service didn’t identify the date and place Kim watched the game in its caption.
By Michael Ha
North Korean authorities released new pictures Sunday showing their ``dear leader'' watching a military soccer match, in an apparent effort to dispel concerns about his health. But there are questions about exactly when and where these pictures were taken.
They include a photo of Kim Jong-il sitting on a sofa in what appears to be a VIP skybox section of a soccer stadium. There were also 10 photos showing the soccer match, Yonhap News Agency reported.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the game was organized in connection with the close of the annual People's Sports Contest, which is held every October.
The KCNA pictures were also shown on Pyongyang's Korean Central Television and were printed in the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper for the Central Committee of the Workers' Party.
North Korean authorities didn't release any video footage showing Kim at the sporting event. And none of the photos show both Kim and the soccer match captured in the same frame. Authorities also did not mention exactly on which date and in which stadium the pictures were taken.
One photo shows Kim smiling, sitting on a sofa inside the VIP section at the sports facility. The pictures show him wearing dark sunglasses and a thick overcoat. Kim also appears to have full hair in these photos, despite intelligence reports that he recently underwent brain surgery after suffering a stroke in August. Another photo shows Kim giving instruction to officials accompanying him.
One of the photos shows him sitting on a sofa with his apparently weakened left hand on his knee. Another shows him standing with his left thumb hooked in an overcoat pocket, as he points to something with his right hand. The postures may suggest Kim is still recovering from a possible stroke and that it may have affected the left side of his body as some intelligence reports have indicated.
The latest photos also show autumn foliage on trees around the stadium, which suggest the season.
Early last month, North Korea's state media also disclosed photos of Kim inspecting a military unit in a frontline area on Oct. 11. But Seoul officials said the foliage shown in those early photos suggested they may have been taken before Kim reportedly fell ill.