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Is North Korea's Kim Jong Il ill?

September 10, 2008

Speculations are rife that Kim Jong Il, the reclusive Communist dictator of North Korea, may be seriously ill.

Indications of this came when Kim Jong Il skipped the parade commemorating the 60th anniversary of the foundation of North Korea on September 9.

According to media reports, the North Korean leader, who hardly travels outside his country or entertains political guests from abroad, may have suffered a stroke.

However, North Korean officials were quick to dismiss speculations about Kim Jong's health as baseless rumours spread by the West.

North Korean diplomat Song Il-ho told Japan's [Images] Kyodo news agency, "We see such reports as not only worthless but rather as a conspiracy plot."

Doubts about the North Korean dictator's health were strengthened by reports of the recent summoning of a team of Chinese doctors to Pyongyang to examine him.

Kim Jong Il, like his father Kim Il Sung, has kept North Korea isolated from the world community. North Korea reportedly spends more than 25 per cent of the country's GNP on defence while hundreds of thousand of people in the country go hungry.

Kim Jong Il succeeded Kim Il Sung as North Korea's supreme ruler, after his father's death in 1994. Known to his people as 'Dear Leader', he is known to have a fear of flying and prefers armoured trains, which he uses to travel to China, the only nation he is known to visit.

Image: This undated picture, released from Korean Central News Agency earlier this year, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Il with female soldiers as he inspects Korean People's Army unit 958 at an undisclosed place.
Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

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