Kim Jong-il's health appears to have improved significantly since he suffered a massive stroke in 2008, the latest photographs of the reclusive North Korean leader suggest.
Reuters on Wednesday compared photos of Kim taken in August 2009, when former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang, and pictures of him meeting with Russian external liaison officials on Tuesday. Both sets were published by the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency.
In the older pictures, Kim looks gaunt, but in the latest ones he has regained his characteristic podginess. "Kim Jong-il is looking healthier by the day," Reuters wrote.
At one time, U.S. intelligence projected that Kim had only about three years left to live, based on the observations of a doctor who accompanied Clinton to Pyongyang. Even at a Workers Party gathering in September last year, Kim was seen being held by the arm by an assistant. But Kim has been very busy recently, greeting visiting foreign officials.
The North Korean leader, who stands only 162 cm tall, has also gone back to wearing heels to make him look taller. When he met Clinton, he wore flat shoes, but on Tuesday he sported black shoes with 3 cm lifts. He was also spotted wearing Cuban heels during a field visit to a fish farm on Saturday.
Although Kim (70) may have recovered from his stroke, he apparently still suffers from diabetes and other ailments.