Images of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attending a military parade for the 65th anniversary of the Workers Party on Oct. 10 showed the aftereffects of a massive stroke he suffered two years ago. He appeared weak throughout the ceremony and his face was expressionless, leading to suspicions that he may be suffering from depression, which is one of the side effects of brain damage.
A dark spot on his right cheek appears to be getting larger. It is being variously attributed to kidney problems or old age. Kim suffers from diabetes and his kidneys are believed to have been damaged as a result. If toxic compounds in the body are not released due to kidney problems, they build up underneath the skin, and if those areas are exposed to ultraviolet rays, the pigment darkens.
Kim Hyoung-kyu, a kidney expert at Korea University Medical Center, said, "He shows signs of chronic kidney failure. In that case, a person's life is in danger as more than half the kidneys lose their function even after dialysis unless the person has a transplant within five years."
Kim's stroke seems to have occurred in the right side of his brain, which affects the left side of his body. Typically, if nerve functions do not improve a year after a stroke, they remain damaged for life. His left shoulder appeared slumped as the muscles supporting it have grown weak. As a result, Kim cannot lift his left arm very high and cannot fold it inward. He can turn his head to the right, but hardly turns it to the left. This is believed to be due to rigidity in his neck muscles. He drags his left foot when walking as well.
His face appeared grim throughout the parade. His lips were stiff and his face expressionless. Brain damage due to stroke often causes depression and experts say his expression is indicative of that condition.