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N. Korean leader stays busy: report

NORTH Korean media said yesterday that leader Kim Jong-il was keeping a busy schedule of visits around the country, a day after a South Korean television station said he had life-threatening pancreatic cancer.

The North's KCNA news agency said yesterday that Kim toured a tile factory. It released photographs of the undated visit where his thinning hair was tousled and his body appeared gaunt.

"He expressed great satisfaction over the fact that the soldier builders have built the modern factory in such a manner," KCNA said.

It is only on rare occasions that North Korea shows Kim as a grand leader presiding over state events. Instead, he is mostly seen in photographs touring towns and villages.

Despite his health problems, Kim has been reported this year in North Korean media as making more than 80 such visits, a sharp increase from a year ago, the South's Unification Ministry said.

Further questions were raised about Kim's health after South Korean broadcaster YTN said on Monday he was suffering from pancreatic cancer.

United States and South Korean officials would not confirm the report but have said Kim suffered a stroke a year ago and his health still appears to be poor.

North Korean TV showed a sickly looking Kim at a state event last week. Kim has not anointed a successor, but South Korean officials said North Korea authorities have been asked to pledge loyalty to his youngest son Jong-un.


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