FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Report: North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Il recovering from Stroke, Brain Surgery
North Korea denies, calls story "conspiracy" of "Western media"
That’s the word on the even more reclusive than usual leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Korea Herald, South Korea’s English-language daily, reports:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had surgery after suffering a stroke sometime after Aug. 14 and is recovering, officials at the nation’s top intelligence agency were quoted as saying yesterday in their report to the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee.
The author, Lee Joo-Hee, credits the information above to “Rep. Won Hye-young of the main opposition Democratic Party,” who in turn cited information provided the Intel Committee by “a National Intelligence Service official” during a “closed-door briefing session.”
Clearly, the U.S. isn’t the only county with opposition pols who jump at the chance to dump information received in closed-door intelligence briefings to the press at first chance.
But I digress. Circumstantial evidence clearly backs up the case that, at very least, something is amiss with Kim Jong-Il, whose absence from this week’s celebration of the country’s 60th birthday — despite a claim made Wednesday by North Korea’s number two man, Kim Yong-Nam, to Japan’s Kyodo News Agency that “there is no problem” with the North Korean leader.
A cursory review of North Korean state news reveals that Kim’s last reported appearance was August 11, when he inspected an army unit, meaning today marks a full month since the dictator was last known to have appeared publicly.
The DPRK’s ambassador to Japan, Song Il-Ho, denounced the reports as “not only worthless, but as a conspiracy plot” being perpetrated by “Western media.”
“I believe the aim is to form public opinion about something that is not true,” Song continued. “Western media have reported falsehoods before.”
As the Herald correctly reports, the DPRK’s state media “have maintained their standard focus on industrial projects and economic achievements, in addition to highlighting the Sept. 9 celebrations of the nation’s 60th anniversary, and encouraging undying loyalty to their leader, Kim Jong-Il.”
The potential relinquishing of power by Kim Jong-Il, be it via death or any other means, has implications for U.S., South Korean, and Japanese policy at very least, though few likely scenarios will result in further destabilization of a nation that is already held together by shoestring and gum chewed by the self-declared Sun God Kim Jong-Il, nor in greater immediate threats to its neighbors.
Attempts to negotiate a denuclearization of the totalitarian state have been falling apart not so much piece by piece as wholesale over the course of the last year, despite President Bush and Secretary of State Rice’s continuous game of limbo with regard to the DPRK, in which they attempted to bend over backwards further and further, until somehow their concessions proved enough to cause the rogue state to illogically and willingly forfeit the upper hand it had been handed by the U.S. administration.
The greatest threat to stability in the barren communist state would be an attempt at revolution (or “Counter-Revolution,” if such a term better describes an overthrow of the self-described Revolutionary government) in the wake of Kim’s departure. However, the loyalty of the state’s massive military (being the only group that is fed in a country experiencing years of famine will create loyalty) and rigid structure of the central government make successful revolution perhaps the only possibility less likely than an attempted revolution at all.
As always, the situation on the Korean peninsula will bear close watching; however, with no more than this to currently go on, watching as closely as possible is all that we are able to do for the time being.