Posted by: Ihlwan Moon on September 9, 2008
The absence of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in a military parade commemorating the country’s 60th birthday on Sept. 9 is fanning speculation over his health. His absence followed a report by South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo that Kim collapsed last month. The daily cited a South Korean diplomatic source in Beijing.
Some analysts warn against reading too much into the absence of Kim in the military parade because the 66-year-old leader has had a record of dropping out of sight for months and then showing up in a military base or a factory. But Kim, who ruled the North since his father Kim Il Sung died in 1994, attended the parades for the 50th and the 55th anniversary of the state founded by the senior Kim.
The Seoul government says it could not confirm the Chosun Ilbo report over Kim’s health, but North Korean media has not reported a public appearance by Kim in the past month. His health has been a focus of interest in Northeast Asia as it is closely linked to the fate of the communist country. His departure will leave the region with the biggest salvage job in Asia. My colleague David Rocks in New York spoke to North Korea expert Nicholas Eberstadt five years ago over a possible collapse of the country and his explanation still stays pretty useful.