Reports coming from diplomats in Pyongyang have Kim Jong-Il so debilitated that he can no longer walk 30 feet without assistance. He apparently needs heart surgery, which has kept him from making public appearances on his normal schedule:
Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s reclusive leader, has been so unwell that he could not walk more than 30 yards without a rest, western governments have been told.
Diplomats in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, are increasingly convinced that the 65-year-old dictator needs heart surgery to restore his apparently flagging health. He has had to be accompanied by an assistant carrying a chair so that, wherever he goes, he can sit and catch his breath. …
Kim’s public appearances have been curtailed this year and he has appeared in public only 23 times, compared with 42 times at the same point last year – an indication, observers say, of his declining health. The suggestion that he underwent an operation offered an apparent explanation for his recent month-long disappearance from public view.
Last month, German cardiac specialists flew into Pyongyang, which heightened speculation about Kim’s health. They later claimed that they treated a scientist, a nurse, and three laborers, but a German team of cardiac specialists doesn’t come cheap. It would have been easier for Kim to send the five to Germany if those North Koreans needed the help — and it stretches the imagination that Kim would have that much concern over a nurse and three workers.
Diplomats also report that Kim has begun to rely on his two sons more than usual. They speculate that Kim may want to test them now for the succession, while he’s around to see how they perform. Undoubtedly he wants to ensure a smooth transfer of power to someone in his own family, although the military has made moves towards coups in the past. They will likely resist a furtherance of Kim’s dynasty, especially while their nation starves.
Kim will also probably want to get more medical assistance for himself, but he will have to do that within North Korea. The UN sanctions on the DPRK restricts the international movement of Dear Leader while he pursues nuclear weapons. On the bright side, Cuba probably won’t honor the sanctions, and Kim can take advantage of the superior medical system Castro offers, except when Castro needs life-saving attention himself.