SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea’s Kim Jong-il collapsed last month, a South Korean official in Beijing was quoted as saying, as analysts wondered whether the reclusive leader will appear at his state’s anniversary festivities on Tuesday.
Kim, who is 66, overweight and plagued with chronic medical maladies, has been the subject of persistent rumors in the South about his health, but his actual condition is one of the secretive state’s most tightly guarded secrets.
“We have obtained intelligence that Defence Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il had collapsed on August 22,” the official with the South Korean embassy in Beijing was quoted as saying by the Chosun Ilbo newspaper on Tuesday.
The same daily reported last week that five Chinese doctors have been visiting Pyongyang from late August to treat a high-level North Korean official, possibly Kim.
South Korea’s intelligence agency could not immediately confirm the report.
North Korea on Tuesday celebrates the 60th anniversary of the founding of its communist state with what is expected to be a large-scale military parade in Pyongyang’s main square. Kim has attended these type of events in the past.
The celebrations began on Monday with a massive rally and artistic performances heralding the feats of Kim and his father, state founder Kim Il-sung.
The junior Kim is known to suffer from diabetes and heart problems. But Kim himself, at a summit with the South’s president in 2007, dismissed speculation that he had any debilitating ailments.
Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Alex Richardson