London, Nov.3 : North Korea has released photographs of its leader Kim Jong-il in an attempt to quell growing reports of his ill health. The photographs shows the "Dear Leader" at a football match between two military units, according to the Korea Central News Agency, the state propaganda arm.
Foliage visible in the pictures appeared to be autumnal - in contrast to a previous photograph circulated three weeks ago, where despite the time of year trees in the background were in full leaf.
According to The Telegraph, the 14 photographs are part of attempts to prove that Kim is still in control. He is shown sitting at a slightly awkward angle and smiling, and there are no pictures showing both him and the football games in progress.
A statement put out with the release did not categorically assert that the pictures were recent, nor did it refer to reports from the South Korean and Japanese intelligence services that Kim suffered a stroke in August.
North Korean media have reported on Kim's activities in the last week but there has been no definitive contemporary footage of him since suggestions that he was ill began to surface in September. He has also missed a number of key events, including the funeral of a senior leader and veteran revolutionary, and a military parade marking the 60th anniversary of the state's founding.
Japanese television last week showed footage of a man resembling Kim's eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, visiting a hospital in Paris. One of the hospital's neurosurgeons, Franois-Xavier Roux, who has ties to North Korea, flew to Beijing two days later.
Professor Roux later claimed he was in Beijing for a conference, rather than flying on to Pyongyang to treat the Korean leader as had been suggested. He said his visitor in Paris was a regular patient visiting for a check-up, and he had no idea if he was related to Kim Jong-il.