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(LEAD) S. Korea says N. Korean leader on recovery after ankle operation

2014/10/28 18:40

SEOUL, Oct. 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is recovering following an operation to remove a cyst from his right ankle, though there is a chance that the condition could recur, lawmakers said Tuesday, citing South Korea's spy agency.

Kim received the operation between September and October by inviting a foreign doctor into the communist country, according to Lee Cheol-woo of the ruling Saenuri Party and Shin Kyong-min of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

The two lawmakers made the comments to reporters after a closed-door parliamentary audit of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in southern Seoul.

The NIS said that there is a chance that the condition could recur due to Kim's obesity and frequent inspection tours, according to the lawmakers.

Kim stepped back into public view on Oct. 14, ending a six-week absence that sparked speculation of Kim's critical illness or a possible military coup in the isolated country.

Kim's health is a key issue in South Korea, the United States and other regional powers as he is the man who controls North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

Also Tuesday, the NIS said North Korea has executed about 50 people this year and demoted senior military officers by two ranks for poor accuracy rate of artillery.

The South Korean spy agency said that Pyongyang has purged about 10 party officials for watching South Korean soap operas -- a phenomenon that has gained popularity in North Korea in recent years despite a harsh crackdown.

North Korea forbids its 24 million people from watching foreign broadcasts and any other foreign video content out of fear that the influx of outside influences could pose a threat to its leader.

North Koreans face harsh punishment for listening to foreign broadcasts and possessing dissident publications.

Still, a growing number of North Koreans are believed to be secretly watching or listening to South Korean television and radio broadcasts as well as other foreign radio broadcasts, according to experts and North Korean defectors in South Korea.

The executions of North Koreans are the latest sign that Kim is instituting a reign of terror in North Korea to help consolidate his grip on power he inherited upon the death of his father and long-time leader Kim Jong-il in 2011.

Last year, Kim executed his once-powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek, who was accused of treason, a shocking purge that drew widespread condemnation and sparked concerns for possible instability.

entropy@yna.co.kr

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