North Korea is making an unprecedented multi-part documentary film chronicling the life of leader Kim Jong-Il, South Korean officials said Thursday, stoking speculation about his health.
Seoul's unification ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-Joo said the series is the first to depict the 67-year-old's entire life.
"However, the government is not in a position to give its interpretation (as to the meaning of this development)," she said.
South Korea's YTN cable TV network said Monday that Kim, who is widely believed to have suffered a stroke last August, has also been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and may not live more than five years.
Some analysts said they doubt whether the leader has cancer given his reportedly hectic schedule of public appearances, although they said his health has clearly worsened since last year.
Senior US officials told a Washington briefing Wednesday they had no specific information that could confirm the cancer report.
Kim's health is the subject of intense international attention because of the North's nuclear and missile programmes and uncertainty about who will succeed him as leader of the impoverished communist nation.
Regional tensions are currently high, with Pyongyang defying United Nations sanctions designed to halt its atomic and missile activities.
The North's official news media said Wednesday that part one of the multi-part documentary entitled "Shining Sun of Songun (military-first policy)" would feature Kim's "revolutionary feats."
It covers the period from his birth -- allegedly on a sacred mountain -- to his designation as successor to his father Kim Il-Sung, who founded the country.
"This film will help push through with the all-out campaign to build a prosperous socialist state," ChungAng TV said.
In 1993, a year before Kim Il-Sung died of a heart attack, North Korea started producing a documentary series on the senior Kim's life. The elder Kim also began writing his memoirs.
Cheong Seong-Chang of the Sejong Institute think-tank said Kim Jong-Il must have approved the documentary on his own life.
"When Kim Il-Sung started writing his memoirs, he probably had a sense that he didn't have long to live, like many others who sense their approaching death and start chronicling their life," Cheong told Yonhap news agency.
"I believe Chairman Kim Jong-Il also has come to a point where he has to look back on his life," Cheong said.
Seoul intelligence officials have been quoted as saying Kim Jong-Il has nominated his youngest son Jong-Un, 26, as successor but there has been no announcement to the outside world.
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