North Korea campaigns to show healthy Kim Jong-il

Tue Nov 4, 2008 7:12pm EST

SEOUL Nov 5 (Reuters) - North Korea stepped up its campaign to show that its leader Kim Jong-il, thought to have suffered a stroke in August, was healthy and active by saying on Wednesday he inspected two military units.

Analysts said that despite being in one of the world's most-closed countries, many North Koreans have probably heard reports in the outside media that Kim suffered a serious health setback and the North's propaganda machine was responding by saying he is active and in control of the communist state.

The North's official KCNA news agency said Kim inspected two facilities of the Korean People's Army, without saying when he made the visits.

"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," it said.

The agency has not yet released pictures from the visits.

At the weekend, the North released photographs it said showed Kim watching a soccer match. Last month it said he was out in public twice -- once to see a separate soccer match and inspect a unit of women soldiers.

But the undated photographs released by the North of two of those visits raised more questions about his health than they answered. Experts in the South said the pictures released in October of his visit to the women's soldiers were taken several months ago, and well before his illness.

Pictures released at the weekend of the soccer match show Kim smiling and standing, but speculation was raised in the South's media that Kim may have suffered some paralysis on his left side based on a few glimpses of a little used left hand.

South Korean officials said Kim was apparently on the mend from a stroke. His illness has raised questions about leadership in Asia's only communist dynasty and who was making decisions concerning its nuclear arsenal.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said intelligence indicates that Kim may still be in hospital but in control of his state. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Valerie Lee)