SEOUL — All three of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s known sons have chronic illnesses with the youngest suffering from hypertension and diabetes, a news report said on Wednesday.
Reclusive leader Kim, 66, may have suffered a stroke in recent weeks, South Korean officials have said, raising questions about succession in Asia’s only communist dynasty.
Kim has not openly indicated if any of his sons will succeed him, but that has not stopped several analysts from speculating which one may be next in line for the leadership.
Kim’s oldest son, Jong-nam, 37, suffers from heart problems, like his father and grandfather, Yonhap news agency quoted sources familiar with the North as saying. Jong-nam, seen frequently in the media during travels through Beijing and Macau, is also severely overweight.
The second son, Jong-chol, believed to be 27, is thought to be suffering from a hormonal disorder and may even be addicted to painkillers that he started taking after hurting his leg playing basketball, they said.
Jong-un, 25, described by intelligence officials as the most capable, “may have seen his health worsen sharply after he took to drinking heavily out of stress,” the sources were quoted as saying.
South Korea’s spy agency would not comment on the report. All of Kim’s known sons have left secretive North Korea for several years to live and study abroad.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has long been suspected to be suffering from heart problems and diabetes, intelligence sources have said. In rare comments at an inter-Korean summit in 2007, Kim dismissed the reports as “fiction” and said he was in good shape.
Kim’s father, the patriarch and the founder of the communist state, Kim Il-sung, died in 1994 of a heart attack at 82.