June 29, 2009 10:35
South Korean intelligence authorities believe that a photo of purportedly showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on an inspection of the command of the 7th Infantry Division on June 14 was really taken during a visit to the 851st Unit on April 25. Intelligence forces are on alert in case that means that Kim's health has deteriorated again.
North Korea released a group photo of Kim accompanied by Kim Yong-chun, minister of the People's Armed Forces, and Kim Jong-gak, first vice-director of the General Political Department of the KPA, to illustrate a story that he visited the 851st Unit on the 77th anniversary of the army on April 25.
The photo was released on June 14 by the official KCNA news agency to accompany a story on the visit, but it mentions no date. The positions of people in the two photos except five or six soldiers at both ends of the front row are identical to the earlier picture, as are the ceiling lamps and the words in the placard in the backdrop. Kim Yong-chun, who is standing on Kim's right, was apparently in China around June 13. A Cheong Wa Dae official said it was "very strange" that Kim is wearing winter clothes in the photo allegedly taken on June 14.
Both the 7th Infantry Division, which Kim allegedly visited in June, and the 851st Unit, which he allegedly inspected in April, are near Anbyon-gun in Wonsan, an intelligence officer said. "It's possible that North Korea put different dates to visits to the two military units at similar times."
The Unification Ministry said Kim went on 77 field inspections and so-called on-the-spot guidance trips since early this year, up from 50 in the same period last year.
Prof. Nam Joo-hong of Kyonggi University said, "If North Korea reused the same photo again to make it look as if Kim were in good health, it shows that the regime is unstable." A North Korea expert said the manipulations could add credence to speculation that North Korea's current international grandstanding is part of efforts to tighten the regime's hold at home as Kim Jong-il's health deteriorates.
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