North Korean leader Kim Jong II is believed to be recovering from recent surgery, South Korea's spy agency said on Wednesday as the communist nation rejected reports questioning Kim's health as a "conspiracy plot."
Speculation that Kim may have taken ill had intensified after he missed a parade on Tuesday commemorating the communist state's founding 60 years ago. That followed weeks of being absent from public view and rumors that foreign doctors were brought to the isolated nation to treat him.
Today, South Korea's National Intelligence Service reported to a parliamentary committee that it had obtained intelligence reports showing Kim recently had surgery for an unspecified circulatory problem and his condition had much improved, an agency official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing office policy, did not elaborate. South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing lawmakers briefed by the spy agency, reported that the 66-year-old Kim suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, but he remains conscious and "is able to control the situation."
The NIS also reported to lawmakers that Kim is in a "recoverable and manageable condition," and that the North is not in a "power vacuum," Yonhap said.
NIS officials said they could not confirm the Yonhap report. Earlier in the day, North Korean officials denied that Kim may be ill or that there was anything unusual about his absence from the parade.
"There are no problems," Kim Yong Nam, Pyongyang's No. 2 leader and ceremonial head of state, told Japan's Kyodo News agency, referring to Kim Jong Il's absence.