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No sudden collapse in North Korea: Think tank

world Updated: Jan 15, 2009 13:10 IST

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North Korea is unlikely to experience a sudden collapse despite growing unrest over chronic food shortages, according to a South Korean think-tank.

The state-run Korea Institute for National Unification said in a report seen on Thursday that leader Kim Jong-Il, 66, is fully in command.

South Korea and US officials have said he suffered a stroke last August but recovered well.

Kim's health is closely watched since he has yet to nominate publicly his successor to rule the nuclear-armed but impoverished state.

"Chances are slim for North Korea to suddenly collapse, as Chairman Kim Jong-Il seems to be in command with state affairs under his control," the institute said.

"Protracted economic woes have weakened social discipline and stirred discontent among North Korea's citizens, but the predominant view is that it is an overreaction to read these as signs pointing to North Korea's collapse."

The communist North suffered a full-scale famine in the 1990s which killed hundreds of thousands. It has since relied on foreign aid to help feed its 23 million people.

Seoul's state-run Korea Rural Economic Institute said on Thursday it would run short of one million tonnes of food this year, more than UN estimates,

The rural institute forecast the North's grain production at 4.2 million tonnes this year compared to demand of 5.2 million.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme said in a joint report last month the North's total food production would be 4.21 million tons from November 2008 to October 2009.

As a result it faces a cereals deficit of 836,000 tonnes even with commercial imports of around 500,000 tonnes, the UN agencies said.