By JAE-SOON CHANG, Associated Press Writer
SEOUL, South Korea – The first photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il released in two months show him in a setting very similar to photographs from August.
This combination of two undated Korean Central News Agency photos, made available by Korea News Service in Tokyo, shows in the above photo North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, wearing glasses, standing with uniformed soldiers during his visit to a military unit in an unknown location of North Korea. The above photo was released Aug. 16, 2008. The photo below, the first released since the Aug. photos, also shows Kim visiting a military unit in an unknown location of North Korea and was released Saturday Oct. 11, 2008. The similar settings and the verdant background looking more like summer than autumn, add to uncertainty about Kim’s health after reports he underwent brain surgery.(AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
And the verdant background looks more like summer than autumn, adding to uncertainty about Kim’s health after reports he underwent brain surgery.
North Korea released the undated still photos and video frame grabs Saturday accompanying a report by North Korean television that Kim visited a military unit. They were the first photos of Kim published since Aug. 14; and in both sets of pictures he wears his trademark dark sunglasses and a khaki jumpsuit.
“They didn’t appear to have been taken recently,” Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University, said Monday of the pictures carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. “To me, it looked like they were taken in June or July.”
The 66-year-old communist leader disappeared from public view in mid-August and failed to make appearances on two national holidays — leading to speculation he was seriously ill. American and South Korean officials said he suffered a stroke and had brain surgery; North Korea has denied he is ailing.
One of the photos released Saturday shows Kim surrounded by uniformed soldiers against a backdrop that appears virtually identical to the photos from August — sand-colored buildings with window frames painted in turquoise. The report said he visited female soldiers attached to a unit identified by the number 821. It did not say when or where the inspection took place….