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South Korean media reports Kim has cancer -

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PETER CAVE: A South Korean broadcaster is reporting that intelligence agencies in Seoul and Beijing
believe the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il is dying from pancreatic cancer.

The dictator certainly looked very frail in one of his rare public appearances last week.

Our North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy has joined us on the line from Tokyo.

What is this South Korean broadcaster reporting, Mark?

MARK WILLACY: Well, it's not reporting a lot but if true what it is reporting is quite serious. The
YTN broadcaster in Seoul says its report is based on information gathered by Chinese and South
Korean intelligence agencies.

And apparently that information is that Kim Jong-il has pancreatic cancer and that the illness is
life-threatening. That's all we're hearing. But by way of background, pancreatic cancer has one of
the highest fatality rates of call cancers and according to the World Health Organization the
median survival time after the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is just three to six months.

So if this report is true, for Kim Jong-il, it would look terminal.

PETER CAVE: Tell us about that appearance last week that, where he looked so frail.

MARK WILLACY: Yeah, well it's true that at a tribute to his father, his late father last week, that
Kim Jong-il did look, basically, deathly. He was pale, his once full face was baggy and gaunt, he'd
lost a lot of weight around his middle, his hair had thinned considerably and he basically limped
to his seat on stage.

So that appearance certainly fuelled speculation that the dictator is suffering from some sort of
serious illness. And we're also hearing reports from Toshimitsu Shigemura who's a North Korea
expert at Tokyo Waseda University. He says he has a source close to the Dear Leader who basically
says Kim will be dead before the end of the year and possibly as early as a few weeks.

PETER CAVE: If this report is true, would Kim Jong-il still be in control of the nuclear missile
program and what are the chances that it could spark a military coup?

MARK WILLACY: Yeah, well there have been reports elsewhere that Kim Jong-il has basically left, let
the politbureau, his party and the military take over policy making and the day-to-day running of
the country.

And that may explain the recent hard-lined stance of Pyongyang in firing missiles and conducting
nuclear tests. Although another theory suggests that it was Kim's way of cementing his power in
forcing his succession plan, which would see his youngest son Jong-un take over when he's gone.

Although the military, as you mentioned, there is always a possibility of a coup. They may not
accept his youngest son as the heir apparent, and the military has always exercised a central
aspect of control in North Korea.

But just how powerful they are at the moment with Kim ailing, is anyone's guess.

PETER CAVE: Tell us a little bit about that youngest son.

MARK WILLACY: All we know was that he's Swiss-educated, that he's learnt English, he loves American
films and that he's very much like his father, both in looks and temperament.

Other than that, we don't really know much about him. We have heard reports that he's been put in
charge of some of the security apparatus within Pyongyang in a bid to toughen him up and to give
him some street credibility, so to speak.

Other than that; like North Korea, like Kim Jong-il's health, everything about Kim Jong-un is a
closely guarded secret in Pyongyang.

PETER CAVE: Mark Willacy there, live on the line from Tokyo.