N.Korea Releases Footage of Kim Jong-il Using Left Hand

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has been spotted using his left hand fairly adeptly, suggesting that he is recovering from paralysis following a massive stroke in 2008. Some observers believe North Korean media deliberately showed footage of Kim using the hand to quash rumors that his days are numbered.

In a documentary broadcast Wednesday by the North's state-run Korean Central Television, Kim repeatedly uses both hands to open and close a closet door in a newly-built apartment for artists on the banks of the Daedong River in Pyongyang. The footage was purportedly shot on Oct. 8.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il opens a closet door with his left hand in this footage broadcast by [North] Korean Central TV on Wednesday. /KCTV-Yonhap North Korean leader Kim Jong-il opens a closet door with his left hand in this footage broadcast by [North] Korean Central TV on Wednesday. /KCTV-Yonhap

"Use of the hands is the most intricate level of movement, so Kim using his hands freely signifies marked improvements from the side effects of a stroke," a physiotherapist said. "But it's uncertain whether brain and other functions have recovered completely." A North Korean source said even during the military parade on Oct. 10 marking the 65th anniversary of the Workers' Party, Kim Jong-il could barely walk and had to rely on railings to stay upright. It seems implausible that he had recovered completely from the stroke in footage shot two days before the parade."

And a Unification Ministry said, "Why did North Korea release two-month-old footage showing Kim Jong-il specifically using his left hand? North Korea appears to be sending the message that its leader is in good health after South Korea and other governments raised the possibility of sudden changes happening in the North due to Kim's deteriorating health."

Kim suffered a stroke to the right side of his brain in August of 2008 and underwent intensive treatment. In footage shown by North Korea's state-run media, Kim limps with his left foot, while dragging his left arm, which is often seen dangling or tucked inside a coat pocket. He also applauds by placing his left arm on his knee and hitting it with his right hand.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 31, 2010 12:36 KST