North Korea leader Kim has pancreatic cancer: report

SEOUL Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:46pm EDT

A man watches a television news broadcast about North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at the Seoul railway station July 8, 2009. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

A man watches a television news broadcast about North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at the Seoul railway station July 8, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jo Yong-Hak

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has pancreatic cancer and the illness is life-threatening, South Korean broadcaster YTN said on Monday based on information gathered by Chinese and South Korean intelligence sources.

Kim's health is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the reclusive communist state. Kim, 67, was widely thought to have suffered a stroke last year, but there has never been official confirmation.

Kim looked gaunt during a public appearance last Wednesday at a memorial for his father and state founder Kim Il-sung [ID:nSEO96393]

Kim's health raises questions about succession in Asia's only communist dynasty and who will control its nuclear weapons programs.

The North conducted its second nuclear test on May 25, which was met by U.N. sanctions aimed at cutting off the impoverished state's lucrative arms trade and one of its few sources of hard cash.

South Korean officials have said the North's recent military grandstanding that also included missiles launches and threats to attack the South is linked to efforts to pave the way for Kim's youngest son to take over.

Kim took power in 1994 when his father died at the age of 82. He assumed the title of general secretary of the Workers' Party and chairman of the National Defense Commission, but has never taken the title of president.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Dean Yates)