SEOUL, South Korea – Leader Kim Jong Il attended a classical music concert, North Korea's state-run news agency said Thursday in its third report in less than a week on the public appearances of a leader believed to have suffered a stroke several months ago.
Though Pyongyang's state media never provides exact dates when reporting on Kim's public activities, the recent rush of such reports suggests his health has improved after he reportedly underwent brain surgery following a stroke in mid-August.
Pyongyang appears to be trying to show Washington that Kim is in firm control of the communist nation during the U.S. presidential election as the outside world continues to question his condition, one analyst said.
"I think this is a message to the United States," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies. "The message appears to be that: 'I make decisions on relations with the United States, the nuclear standoff and everything. I'm in control and I'm ready to have direct talks with"' U.S. President-elect Barack Obama.
Thursday's report on Kim's attendance at an orchestra and chorus performance did not include any photos.
But the Korean Central News Agency said Kim viewed the performance along with aides and army soldiers, and "waved back to the cheering performers and audience and congratulated them on their successful presentation" afterward.
"He expressed expectation and conviction that all the artistes would conduct dynamic revolutionary art activities in the future too, to powerfully encourage the army and people in the drive for accomplishing the cause of building a great prosperous powerful nation," KCNA said in an English-language report.
The report followed two similar reports this week.
On Wednesday, KCNA said Kim visited a military unit, releasing photos showing him with his usual bouffant hairdo and posing with dozens of soldiers. It did not say when Kim made the trips or where the two units are located.
In some photos, Kim is seen smiling, clasping his hands and walking with military officers while wearing his trademark sunglasses and a light gray winter parka. Other photos show scenes of soldiers training in martial arts, shooting and horseback-riding.
And on Sunday, KCNA released pictures showing Kim smiling and looking healthy at what state TV said was a soccer game between two army teams.
South Korea's government says it is difficult to determine Kim's condition through still photos.
North Korea has denied that Kim suffered a stroke or was ill.
Last month, North Korea released undated still photos showing Kim inspecting a military unit and looking healthy. The photos, however, showed lush, green foliage at a time when the Korean peninsula is awash in autumnal foliage.
Speculation about Kim's health spiked after he missed a key celebration marking the country's 60th birthday on Sept. 9. He has not been seen in public since mid-August.
Kim's health is of keen interest because he rules the isolated, nuclear-armed nation with absolute authority and has not publicly named a successor.