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Seoul officials say Kim Jong Un had ankle surgery

Published:Wednesday | October 29, 2014 | 12:00 AM
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, (cente).

SEOUL, (AP):

South Korea?s spy agency said yesterday it has solved the mystery of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un?s six-week public absence, which set off a frenzy of wild speculation around the world.

The National Intelligence Service told legislators that a foreign doctor operated on Kim in September or October to remove a cyst from his right ankle, according to Park Byeong-seok, an aide for opposition lawmaker Shin Kyung-min. The aide said the spy agency also told lawmakers, in a closed-door briefing, that the cyst could recur because of Kim?s obesity, smoking and heavy public schedule.

After last being seen in state media on September 3, Kim reappeared on October 14, hobbling with a cane, but smiling and looking thinner. The speculation during his absence was particularly intense because of the Kim family?s importance to impoverished, nuclear-armed North Korea. The family has ruled the country since its founding in 1948.

Lim Dae-seong, an aide to ruling party lawmaker Lee Cheol-woo, who also attended the briefing, said the spy agency identified Kim?s condition as tarsal tunnel syndrome.

The syndrome, which is often painful, is caused by the compression of a nerve, sometimes because of a cyst. Surgery is generally seen as a last resort after other treatments are unsuccessful.