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(LEAD) N. Korean leader suffering from gout: source

All Headlines 14:30 September 26, 2014

(LEAD) NK leader-health

Kim Jong-un absent

(LEAD) N. Korean leader suffering from gout: source
(ATTN: UPDATES with South Korean government officials' remarks in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Sept. 26 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is believed to be suffering from gout due to his poor management of his health as well as family traits, a source familiar with North Korea affairs said Friday.

Speculation has been rife that the young leader in his early 30s may have a health problem as recent video footage released from the North has shown him walking with a limp.

Kim last appeared in public on Sept. 3 to attend a concert. He was absent from this year's second session of the country's rubber-stamp parliament on Thursday.

"Kim Jong-un is suffering from gout, which is why he is limping on both legs," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I understand that he is suffering from gout along with hyperuricemia, hyperlipidemia, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure."

Kim's health is believed to have deteriorated due to his habit of frequent drinking and overeating.

The source noted, however, that gout runs in Kim's family.

Kim's grandfather, the North's founding leader, Kim Il-sung; his father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il; and his elder brother, Kim Jong-nam, all suffered from the disease.

Gout is often caused by obesity, which results from a high-calorie diet, drinking, and a lack of exercise. Genetic factors also play a large role.

Another source familiar with the communist country claimed that North Korean doctors recently made secret visits to Germany, Switzerland and other European countries to find ways to treat Kim.

As Kim's health deteriorated, however, there is speculation that European doctors may have later made trips to the North as well.

Seoul officials said the North Korean leader appears to have a health problem, but they have not been able to confirm details of his condition, nor rumors that he has already had an operation on his ankles.

"We are paying close attention, bearing in mind various possibilities, including the view that he has a health problem," Park Soo-jin, the vice spokesperson for Seoul's unification ministry, said in a regular press briefing.

Another government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed that the leader may have been absent from Thursday's parliamentary session as he considered it unnecessary to attend events of less importance, with the regime now under his control.

Kim took power following the death of his father in December 2011.


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