N. Korean leader
By Lee Tae-hoon
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il appears to be suffering from diabetes and high-blood pressure and has been undergoing dialysis every two weeks, the head of a state-run think thank said, Wednesday.
Kim, 68, is on a diet and has succeeded in losing more than 10 kilograms since 2009, according to Nam Sung-wook, director of the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS), an affiliate of the National Intelligence Service, at a lecture in Seoul.
"He has been on a diet to prevent a second stroke and is now maintaining a weight of around 70 to 73 kilograms," Nam said.
He estimated that Kim, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed 86 kilograms before he allegedly had a stroke on Aug. 15, 2008.
He claimed that Kim became serious about his diet after he regained his health in January 2009 and lost a significant amount of weight in the following three months.
In 2008, the INSS said Kim had a high chance of having circulatory problems due to obesity.
Nam underlined that the abnormally white fingernails of the North Korean leader supports the growing speculation that he is suffering from chronic renal insufficiency.
Discoloration of the skin is a common symptom of the kidney disease, according to doctors.
The INSS chief noted that the advanced age of Kim is a critical factor that deters a full recovery.
"Given that he was born in 1942, it appears it won't be an easy task for him to regain full health," he said.
According to Nam, the North Korean leader's left hand hardly moved when clapping at a rally on March 7, one of the many signs indicating Kim's deteriorating health.
Kim might be hesitant to undergo a kidney transplant because he is too frail and such a major operation could lead to complications, said Choi Kyu-heon, a medical doctor of Yonsei University's Severance Hospital in Seoul, who treated the late former President Kim Dae-jung's kidney problems.
Observers here suspect that Kim might be against the idea of having major surgery, as this would create a power vacuum in the military-driven communist regime with fears of a revolt or mutiny, while he was hospitalized.
They point out Kim's unstable health will likely continue to raise speculation over a succession in North Korea's leadership.
Kim's third and youngest son, Jong-un, has been considered his heir apparent.
Last month, Kurt Campbell, U.S. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, reportedly told Seoul's senior officials that Pyongyang's aging leader Kim appears to have only three more years to live in a closed-door meeting during his trip to Seoul.
김정일 체중 16kg 줄여
국가정보원 산하 국가안보전략연구소의 남성욱 소장은 24일 "김정일 북한 국방위원장이 당뇨와 고혈압을 앓고 있으며 2주에 한번씩 신장 투석을 하는 것으로 보고 있다"고 밝혔다.
남 소장은 이날 흥사단 민족통일운동본부 주최로 세종호텔에서 열린 `한반도 정세와 남북관계 전망' 주제 조찬강연에서 "김 위원장의 손톱이 흰색을 띠는 것은 만성 신부전 때문인 것 같다"며 이같이 말했다.
남 소장은 "북한 동향 중 가장 관심이 큰 주제는 김 위원장의 건강"이라고 전제한 뒤 "키가 1ｍ65㎝내지 1ｍ66㎝로 추정되는 김 위원장은 2008년 뇌졸중이 생기기 전 몸무게가 86㎏나 돼 조만간 순환기 계통의 문제가 생길 것으로 예상했었다"고 전했다.
그는 이어 "2008년 8월15일경 뇌졸중이 온 것으로 추정한다"면서 "2009년 1월 회복된 후 3개월간 제2의 뇌졸중을 막기 위해 다이어트를 해 지금은 70㎏ 내지 73㎏ 정도로 감량했다"고 설명했다.
남 소장은 또 "김 위원장은 1942년생이어서 건강의 완벽한 회복이 쉽지 않은 과제 같다"며 "가장 최근인 3월7일 함흥 군중대회에서 손뼉치는 장면을 봐도 왼손이 멈춘 상태서 오른손을 부딪치는 모습을 보였다"고 덧붙였다.