Jeffrey LewisNelson-san on Kim Jong Il

Chris Nelson — in the irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind Nelson Report — has the best summary of the thin, but intriguing, evidence that Kim Jong Il may have joined the choir invisible:

N. KOREA…first, let’s be clear that whatever may be the truth of alleged “US intelligence sources” more or less confirming that they may think that Kim Jong-il has suffered a stroke…no one is going to KNOW anything until or unless it comes from Pyongyang, probably via KCNA.

Unless it proves true that “five Chinese doctors have been in Pyongyang for the past week” treating Kim, and some word leaks out via Beijing.

Despite the uncertainties, today’s US sources unknown give dramatic life to what otherwise would just be the latest speculation based on what is NOT happening…a public appearance by Kim for at least the past month, and perhaps longer.

While skepticism is always the best policy on anything about N. Korea, Loyal Readers who watch the cable traffic are starting to feel there “may really be something going on this time, this could be the real deal…”

Monday night, for example, the titular number two regime official, Politburo Presidium President Kim Yong-nam, gave a banquet speech with the usual laudatory excesses about Dear Leader’s peerless leadership…except it was almost ALL in the past tense.

“We all endlessly glorify the achievements” of Kim, reads an English translation (unclassified), but the “usual boilerplate” about “resolutely leading the progressive forces to victory” simply isn’t there, we’re told.

“Reading the whole speech, you can’t escape that it really has a notable valedictory sense about it, it was all about what he DID, and how important it WAS, and almost nothing about what he and the country WILL do,” says our source.

Another tid-bit, and our source ruefully admits ALL this tea-leaf reading may be on a par with astrology…but “normally” a big official banquet like Monday night’s would have a published guest list, that kind of thing being important so the cadres know who is still on top, and who is coming up, or going down.

Monday night…no list. Today, no Kim Jong-il at the parade, which itself was not big. Other signs “this could be the real deal” include the “no show” in Beijing this weekend by chief DPRK nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan…although that may be more easily explained as “proof” that Pyongyang hasn’t decided on the next step in the 6 Party Talks process.

But that in itself could be “proof” of a succession crisis or something clearly out of the ordinary, of course.

So…to go back to what we didn’t see today…KJI had been expected to take the salute at what had been scheduled to be a big 60th anniversary military extravaganza…and as the AP and Reuters report, his no-show is being taken as confirmation, at a minimum, that all is not well with Dear Leader.


  1. Nik (History)

    …except it was almost ALL in the past tense
    I do not really know about Korean, but in the rather closely related Chinese language, there is no past tense – maybe just a translation issue?

  2. Gridlock (History)

    Maybe he fell off his Segway? Or choked on a pretzel? Hang on, I think I’m getting my ideologues mixed up.

  3. Smith (History)

    Perhaps his newest set of silver chopsticks were defective.