A woman presumed to be Kim Ok, the widow of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and new leader Kim Jong-un's stepmother, was treated in hospital in Berlin recently. According to a hospital staffer, she was treated for a cervical disc and coxitis of the right side at the German capital's Charite University Hospital in May and June.
Kim stayed in a premier hotel in downtown Berlin after arriving in mid-May. She rode a Mercedes for trips between the hospital and the hotel, accompanied by a North Korean diplomat from Geneva as her interpreter. She is said to have paid cash.
Photos obtained by the Chosun Ilbo from a Korean expatriate living there last Friday show the woman sporting a coat and a pair of white sandals with a scarf around her neck. At Beijing Airport earlier she looked nondescript in black elastic pants.
"If she is real Kim Ok, she must have gone there for a change of air rather than urgent treatment," a South Korean government official speculated. "She seems to have a good relationship with Kim Jong-un if she's traveling abroad freely."
Kim Ok had looked after Kim Jong-il since she was chosen for his "Pleasure Squad" in the 1980s. She lived with him since his previous wife Ko Yong-hui, Kim Jong-un's mother, died in 2004 and exercised some power from Kim senior's sickbed after he collapsed with a stroke in August 2008.
At the time, Kim Ok established a close relationship with Kim Jong-il's younger sister Kim Kyong-hui and her husband Jang Song-taek, who are now believed to be directing matters behind the scenes. "That apparently consolidated her status even after Kim Jong-il's death," an informed source said.
Meanwhile, several members of the North Korean elite including a woman believed to be Kim Baek-yon, regime founder Kim Il-sung's natural daughter, are also in Berlin for medical treatment. She has reportedly been treated for insomnia and anemia in a famous hospital since July, staying with her mother Kim Song-juk (50) in a luxury hotel in downtown Berlin. She has been spotted in the glitzy shopping mile of Friedrichstrasse there.
The North Korean elite often go for medical treatment abroad. Kim Kyong-hui had kidney surgery in Moscow in June last year.