The North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is suffering from kidney failure which requires dialysis and also has partial paralysis following a 2008 stroke, according to the head of a South Korean state research institute.
Nam Sung-Wook, director of the Institute for National Security Strategy, said the paleness of Kim's fingernails indicates the 68-year-old leader has chronic kidney disease.
The institute has links to South Korea's National Intelligence Service. Nam's remarks, in a speech at a Seoul forum, were quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency and were confirmed by the organizers of the event.
"Chairman Kim Jong Il is suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure and we believe he is undergoing kidney dialysis every two weeks," Nam said. "[The pale color of] his nails indicates he has chronic kidney failure."
Nam showed photographs of Kim to illustrate his point. The North's official Korean Central News Agency frequently releases color photos of the leader.
"However, it's not an easy task for him to restore his full health because of his age," Nam said. "At his most recent public appearance on the occasion of a public rally in [the northeastern city of] Hamhung on March 7, he was slamming down his right palm on his unmoving left palm."
The leader of the secretive nuclear-armed communist state has not publicly appointed an eventual successor, but the regime is reportedly promoting the virtues of his third son, Kim Jong-Un.
Kim's regime is under pressure to return to six-nation nuclear disarmament talks which it abandoned last April.