SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has been living at an east coast villa since mid-May and is likely convalescing after reportedly suffering a stroke last year, a newspaper said Sunday citing U.S. and South Korean intelligence.
Kim's health has been the focus of keen attention since Western intelligence officials said he suffered a stroke in August before publicly naming his successor. South Korean officials say he has recovered, yet the 67-year-old looked gaunt when he appeared at the country's rubber-stamp parliament in April.
The U.S. informed Seoul that Kim had been staying at the villa in Wonsan since mid-May, the JoongAng Ilbo Sunday newspaper said, quoting an unidentified official privy to North Korean affairs. The report said U.S. military satellites, which closely monitor Kim's personal vehicles, had detected his movement.
The official said it was "certain" that Kim was not in Pyongyang and that South Korean intelligence authorities believed Kim had stayed at Wonsan for a long time.
Wonsan is also close to a launch facility from where South Korea said the North test-fired seven ballistic missiles on Saturday, defying U.N. resolutions.
The paper quoted two other unidentified officials as saying Kim was likely convalescing at the Wonsan villa.
JoongAng Ilbo said Kim may have left his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, in charge in Pyongyang, allowing him to experience running state affairs on his own.
South Korea's spy agency told lawmakers last month that Pyongyang had notified its diplomatic missions and government agencies overseas that 26-year-old son Kim Jong Un was in line to succeed his father.
But South Korean Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee said last week that intelligence suggested a final decision on succession had yet to be made.
South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, and the National Intelligence Service said they could not confirm the JoongAng Ilbo report. Calls to the U.S. military were not answered Sunday.