North Korea has done its share to fuel the speculation by operating an inept public relations campaign to show the "Dear Leader" out-and-about performing Dear Leaderly type stuff.
* First, they released still photos of him at a meeting--whose other attendees included someone who has been dead for two years!
* Then, they sent out pics of him at an outdoor ceremony supposedly from October, but the trees in the background were in lush summer growth.
* Here is a close-up of the latest photo. Pay attention to the shadow of Kim's leg compared to the other shadows, his left foot, and the black line on the concrete. I mean, I've had freshmen in computer class who could do this well after a few weeks' instruction in Photoshop.
An article in Agence France-Presse is headlined 'South Korea dismisses reports of 'faked' Kim Jong-Il photos: "'The possibility of Mr. Kim's photo being forged seems very low,' an NIS spokesman told AFP, refusing to elaborate. He declined to comment on questions raised by the British media about the photograph."
Meanwhile, Korea Times reports that a key director at the Institute for National Reunification, isn't buying it. Choi Jin-wook even goes so far as to name the de facto decision-maker: Chang Sung-taek.
"Chang is now in control and leading North Korea," Choi ... was quoted as saying. "Other important figures consulted him, even before Kim's stroke. He will keep Kim's policy line even if the North Korean leader dies."
Chang, born in Gangwon Province in 1946, married Kim Kyong-hui, the younger sister of Kim, and served as vice director of the ruling Workers' Party.
After an abrupt purge in 2004, he was promoted to the post of first vice director of the party with oversight responsibility for the police, judiciary and other areas of internal security, according to North Korea's state media, the Korean Central News Agency, last year.
"He is very smart, dynamic, with maybe some charisma - that's the image I have of him," Choi said. "He has fewer enemies than other senior cadre because when he purges people, they are not just sent away from Pyongyang, they are killed."
Great. Noth Korea has its own Putin, waiting in the wings.
Finally, an editorial in today's Chosun Ilbo does a little sabre-rattling on behalf of the incoming Obama administration, lest the North think it will get a free pass, just because Obama doesn't swagger and talk all tough. Like a certain someone. The article notes that it was the Democratic Clinton administration that studied the feasibility of bombing the Yongbyon nuclear facilities in 1994. "America now has a time to review its North Korea policy again from first principles. And they are complete abolition of the nuclear program and prevention of nuclear proliferation. The difference between Obama and Bush is merely in methodology in achieving that end."
Kind of heavy reading, I'll admit, but hell, yesterday I posted about a coat rack.