North Korea starts Kim biopic

Multi-part film documents ill Dear Leader's life story

SEOUL -- North Korea has started making a multipart film documenting Kim Jong Il's life story for the first time amid renewed speculation about the 67-year-old leader's health.

The retrospective film could be an ominous sign about his health. South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper noted Thursday that the regime began producing a similar film about Kim's late father, national founder Kim Il Sung, in 1993 a year before he died of heart failure.

Days earlier, a South Korean TV report said Mr. Kim believed to have suffered a stroke last August also has "life-threatening" pancreatic cancer and won't last more than five years.

However, some analysts questioned the YTN television report, saying Mr. Kim's brisk public appearances this year make it unlikely he has cancer.

North Korean state media released new images of Mr. Kim touring a tile factory Thursday in which he appears thin but no worse than in other recent photographs. The latest factory visit brings the total number of such trips this year to 82, compared with 57 visits during the same period last year, according to the Unification Ministry.

State TV on Wednesday also aired an hourlong documentary about Mr. Kim's February activities.

Mr. Kim, known to be reclusive, rarely appears live on television.

However, he made a televised appearance last week in which he looked markedly thinner, his hair noticeably thinning. He also limped slightly, and his smile appeared lopsided possibly a side effect of a stroke.

The images touched off speculation that Mr. Kim, suspected of suffering from chronic diabetes and heart problems, could have other health worries as well.