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S. Korea says N. Korean leader's aunt likely in critical condition

2014/01/08 16:48

SEOUL, Jan. 8 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's aunt appears to be in a critical condition due to a heart problem, a senior South Korean official said Wednesday.

Kim Kyong-hui, 67, a senior party secretary and wife of the recently executed Jang Song-thaek, visited Russia between September and October last year for medical treatment, the official said.

"We believe (she) is in a critical condition," the official said, noting that her heart problems appeared to have worsened due to alcoholism.

She also visited Singapore in 2010 for medical treatment, another South Korean official said. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue.

Kim Kyong-hui was last seen in public on Sept. 9 when she watched a military performance.

South Korea's assessment of Kim's ill health came nearly a month after the North executed her husband, Jang Song-thaek, on charges of treason.

Kim Kyong-hui's conspicuous absence from key anniversary events in North Korea following Jang's bloody purge has raised questions about her political fate and medical condition.

Heart problems appear to run in Kim's family. Kim Jong-un's father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il, died suddenly of a heart attack in 2011. North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current leader, also died of heart failure in 1994.

entropy@yna.co.kr

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