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2009/07/13 13:51 KST
(LEAD) S. Korea has 'no information' on Kim Jong-il's reported pancreatic cancer

By Kim Hyun
SEOUL, July 13 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government has no information on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il having pancreatic cancer as reported by a local broadcaster Monday, officials said.

   "This morning, there was another report about Chairman Kim Jong-il's health, mentioning a particular illness. With regard to today's report, so far, I have no information," Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said in a press briefing.
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Citing unidentified intelligence sources in Seoul and Washington, the cable news channel YTN said Kim, 67, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer around the same time he is believed to have had a stroke in August last year.

   The report, quoting medical sources in Beijing, said the illness was "life-threatening." Kim may not live more than five years, given the high mortality rate of pancreatic cancer patients and his old age, it said.

   An official from the National Intelligence Service also said he was "unable to confirm the report."

   Medical specialists in Seoul say it is impossible to judge from photographs and videos whether Kim is indeed suffering from the reported new illness. In the latest video image released last week, filmed during a memorial service for his father and North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, Kim's hair was thinner particularly on the top of his head and his build more gaunt than in early April. Such signs have been said to stem from the stroke and diabetes, which Kim has long been known to have.

   "Just with the way he looks, we don't know whether it's pancreatic cancer," Park Se-hun, a cancer specialist at Samsung Medical Center, said. One can lose hair and weight from the side effects of chemotherapy, but those symptoms are not limited to pancreatic cancer," he said.

   Kim's health condition is at the center of international media attention, being a decisive factor in what happens to the communist country if he dies without publicly naming a successor.

   Kim is rumored to have internally named his third and youngest son, Jong-un, to succeed him. Jong-un, born to Kim's deceased third wife Ko Yong-hui and either 25 or 26 years old, is said to most resemble the leader in temperament and appearance among his siblings.