NKorea recycles old photo of leader Kim: report | world | Hindustan Times
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NKorea recycles old photo of leader Kim: report

North Korean state media this month apparently recycled an old photo of leader Kim Jong-Il, raising speculation that his health may have worsened, a report said on Monday.

world Updated: Jun 29, 2009 10:52 IST

North Korean state media this month apparently recycled an old photo of leader Kim Jong-Il, raising speculation that his health may have worsened, a report said on Monday.

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper said a photo of Kim visiting an army unit -- broadcast by a TV station on June 14 -- was apparently a retouched version of a picture carried by the official news agency seven weeks earlier.

Both photos show Kim in the front row of a group of soldiers. A background placard and ceiling lights appear identical in both, but some people at either end of the front rank have apparently been deleted from the later picture.

The first photo released by the news agency on April 25 illustrated a report that Kim visited the 851st Unit of the army. The second one, shown on state TV on June 14, purportedly showed him visiting the 7th Infantry Division.

Kim is widely believed to have suffered a stroke last August. The 67-year-old appears frailer and older in pictures released this year.

Another photo released June 14 shows the leader wearing a thick winter jacket despite the summer temperature.

The two army units are not far from each other, near the eastern city of Wonsan.

“It’s possible that North Korea put different dates to visits to the two military units at similar times,” the paper quoted an unidentified intelligence officer as saying.

The National Intelligence Service and the unification ministry had no comment to make on the report.

“If the North used the same photo again to make it look as if Kim were in good health, it shows that the regime is unstable,” Nam Joo-Hong, a North Korea expert and professor at Kyonggi University, told Chosun.

It was not the first time that official photos of the leader have raised questions.

Last October state media released the first pictures of Kim since his reported stroke around mid-August. But a Seoul intelligence source said the background foliage indicated the pictures were taken before the stroke.

The North’s policy has grown notably harder-line this year, with a long-range rocket launch in April and a second nuclear test in May.

US and South Korean officials believe the ailing Kim is projecting an image of strength to bolster his authority as he prepares one of his sons for a takeover.