North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Another Report of KJI Kidney Trouble

The coloring of KJI's hands and fingernails has attracted the attention of Pyongyang watchers looking for indications of his medical condition (Photo: KCNA).

Lee Tae-hoon reports in Korea Times that DPRK expert Nam Sung-wook (director of the ROK NIS-affiliated Institute for National Security Strategy) is contending that Kim Jong-il is receiving artificial dialysis.  This seems to be a continuation of a Yonhap report on 9 March 2010 that analyzed the coloring of KJI’s fingernails.  Lee Tae-hoon reports:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il appears to be suffering from diabetes and high-blood pressure and has been undergoing dialysis every two weeks, the head of a state-run think thank said, Wednesday.

Kim, 68, is on a diet and has succeeded in losing more than 10 kilograms since 2009, according to Nam Sung-wook, director of the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS), an affiliate of the National Intelligence Service, at a lecture in Seoul.

“He has been on a diet to prevent a second stroke and is now maintaining a weight of around 70 to 73 kilograms,” Nam said.

He estimated that Kim, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed 86 kilograms before he allegedly had a stroke on Aug. 15, 2008.

He claimed that Kim became serious about his diet after he regained his health in January 2009 and lost a significant amount of weight in the following three months.

Without wishing to sound pedantic, this is the first time I have read or heard KJI’s height estimated at 5’10.  One of the more interesting aspects of this report is KJI’s alleged reluctance to have surgery because of the potential power gap:

According to Nam, the North Korean leader’s left hand hardly moved when clapping at a rally on March 7, one of the many signs indicating Kim’s deteriorating health.

Kim might be hesitant to undergo a kidney transplant because he is too frail and such a major operation could lead to complications, said Choi Kyu-heon, a medical doctor of Yonsei University’s Severance Hospital in Seoul, who treated the late former President Kim Dae-jung’s kidney problems.

Observers here suspect that Kim might be against the idea of having major surgery, as this would create a power vacuum in the military-driven communist regime with fears of a revolt or mutiny, while he was hospitalized.

This report seems to be a continuation of a Yonhap report from 9 March 2010 that analyzed the coloring of KJI’s hands and fingernails from selected media. Chosun Ilbo also has a story on KJI’s hands.  Despite his contention that KJI is receiving dialysis, Nam Sung-wook says that the succession campaign is proceeding slowly.  You can read excerpts of the translated Yonhap report and see a photo collage of KJI’s hands from 2008 to 2010 at Northeast Asia Matters.

Rumors of KJI receiving kidney dialysis (at least those from this year) started with a 28 January 2010 report in Sankei Shimbun.  Reports and rumors of Kim Jong-il’s health and medical condition are generally speculative and impossible to verify. 


This article was written on 25 Mar 2010, and is filled under Kim Family, Kim Jong-il, KJI Personal Secretariat, leadership succession, succession.

An affiliate of 38 North