North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has life-threatening pancreatic cancer, a news report said on Monday, days after new images of him looking gaunt spurred speculation that his health might be worsening following a reported stroke last year.
The 67-year-old Kim was diagnosed with the cancer around the time he was felled by a stroke last summer, Seoul’s YTN television reported, citing unidentified intelligence officials in South Korea and China.
The report cited the officials saying the disease is “threatening” Kim’s life. Pancreatic cancer is usually found in its final stage, and considering Kim’s age, he is expected to live no more than five years, the report said.
South Korea’s spy agency said it could not confirm the report. Kim’s health is a focus of intense media speculation due to concerns about instability and a power struggle if he were to die without naming a successor. His third and youngest son, Kim Jong Un, has widely been reported as being groomed as heir, but the regime has made no announcement to the outside world.
Today’s report came after Kim last week made a rare public appearance, in an annual memorial for his late father and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung.
Television footage showed him markedly thinner and with less hair, only the second state event he has attended in person since the reported stroke.