Official cause of death raises questions, doubts

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Official cause of death raises questions, doubts

North Korean state television said yesterday that Kim Jong-il died of “cardiac infarction followed by a cardiogenic shock” on Saturday, caused by “great mental and physical strain.” It said the location of his death was “inside a train while on his way to a field inspection.”

But the suddenness of the death, and Kim’s relatively improved physical appearance in recent photos and videos, have raised suspicions about the official explanation. Some people suspect an assassination or an accident, pointing out that Kim, like his father in 1994, didn’t die in either his home or office.

And some analysts are saying both Kim and his father died at period of intense pressure for concessions to the outside world about North Korea’s nuclear program.

Kim’s health, of course, wasn’t great, having suffered a stroke in 2008. Doctors said cardiac problems can be inherited. In 1994, Kim’s father and North Korean founder Kim Il Sung was reported to have died of complications of diabetes and high blood pressure that led to cardiac infarction.

“Kim Jong-il’s carnivorous eating habits, frequent stress, smoking and drinking habits as well as having a family history of the disease were the contributors to his cardiac infarction,” said Hong Soon-jun, professor at the Cardio Vascular Center of Korea University Anam Hospital.

“Such conditions triggers cardiac infarction,” Hong said. “Acute cardiac infarction accounts for more than 80 percent of sudden deaths.”

But on trips to both Russia and China earlier this year, Kim looked relatively hearty, if thin, prompting speculation about a cover-up of the real cause of his death.

Analysts say North Korea’s description of his death was suspiciously similar to its description of Kim Il Sung’s death 17 years ago. Kim Il Sung was reported to have died on July 8, 1994 after developing cardiac infarction due to overwork. The location of his death was a summer house.

Analysts also say affairs of state were similar now and in 1994. Kim Il Sung died when North Korea’s nuclear arms crisis was hitting its zenith and North Korea and the U.S. were holding talks in Geneva. After he died, the talks over freezing the country’s illicit plutonium weapons program in exchange for aid came to a halt and weren’t resumed for three months.

Kim Jong-il died during negotiations with Washington over resuming the six-party denuclearization talks. Late last week, Pyongyang reportedly offered to suspend its highly enriched uranium program. On Thursday, North Korea and the U.S. were planning a third round of talks in Beijing. The third round is likely to be suspended.

By Yim Seung-hye, Kim Su-jeong []
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