South Korea Says Kim Recovering From Surgery

North Koreans call Kim Jong Il the "Dear Leader" and he holds absolute power in the Stalinist regime. (Getty Images)
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SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea's Kim Jong Il had brain surgery after a stroke last month and could have partial paralysis, media reported Thursday, after the South Korean government said he remained in control of his country.

Foreign doctors, possibly from China and France, performed the operation after the communist leader collapsed about Aug. 15, the newspapers Dong-a Ilbo and JoongAng Ilbo reported, citing unidentified government officials.

Kim, whose condition has improved, does not have slurred speech, which associated with a stroke, the reports said.

Lee Cheol-woo, a South Korean ruling party lawmaker, said in a radio interview that Kim is "recovering fast," has "no problem speaking and communicating," and is "able to stand if assisted."

The lawmaker, a leader of the parliamentary intelligence committee briefed by the country's spy agency Wednesday, did not give further details about the 66-year-old Kim's condition.

However, South Korea's largest daily, Chosun Ilbo, said the stroke has left Kim with "partial paralysis." It cited an unnamed senior government official as saying Kim was "suffering inconvenience on the left part of his body."

South Korea's main spy agency declined to comment on the reports, only repeating a previous statement that Kim's condition had much improved from an unspecified circulatory problem. It also declined to say whether Kim had surgery.

On Wednesday night, President Lee Myung-bak's office said it had received intelligence reports that Kim was recovering from a stroke and still in control of his isolated country's communist regime.

The North Korean leader was "not seen to be in a serious condition," presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said in a statement after a security ministers' meeting convened by President Lee to discuss the situation.

Speculation about Kim's health intensified after he missed a parade Tuesday commemorating the country's founding 60 years ago. That followed weeks of absence from public view and rumors that foreign doctors were called in to treat him.

North Korea meanwhile tried to dispel fears about his health in interviews with Japan's Kyodo News agency. North Korean state media however remained quiet about Kim's condition.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing lawmakers briefed by the spy agency, said Kim suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, but was conscious and "is able to control the situation."

The report did not say when he suffered the stroke. South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Tuesday that Kim collapsed on Aug. 22.

The spy agency also reported to lawmakers that Kim is in a "recoverable and manageable condition," and that the North is not in a "power vacuum," Yonhap said.

"If he had surgery, it means it's serious," said Kim Jong-sung, a neurology professor at Seoul's Asan Medical Center.

A cerebral hemorrhage can result in death, paralysis, difficulty in speaking and other disabilities. If it is minor, recovery is possible without long-term affects. Surgery is generally only considered in the most serious cases, he said.

Kim, who has been rumored to be in ill health for years, took over North Korea after the death of his father in 1994.