North Korea's state news agency reported a public appearance by reclusive leader Kim Jong Il for the first time in nearly two months, an absence that prompted speculation he was seriously ill.
Kim watched a university soccer game, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Saturday. It did not say anything about his health condition or when he made the appearance.
The 66-year-old leader had not been seen in public since mid-August. U.S. and South Korean officials said last month that Kim suffered a stroke and underwent brain surgery but North Korea has denied he was ill.
Kim's failure to appear for two key occasions — a military parade marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of North Korea and Korean Thanksgiving — reinforced the notion that he was seriously ill and raised questions about future leadership of the isolated communist country.
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The news agency said Kim, accompanied by other officials, watched the game marking the 62nd anniversary of his alma mater Kim Il Sung University, named for his late father, who founded North Korea.
The report did not say when or where the game was held or whether Kim and the other officials attended in person or watched it televised from another location. It said he congratulated the two teams that played after the game.
The report could not immediately be verified.
Information about North Korea, one of the world's most isolated nations, can be difficult to confirm, and Kim basks in a cult of personality that tolerates no criticism or dissent.
He is thought to also suffer from diabetes and other chronic ailments. But South Korean officials had said his condition appeared to have improved in recent weeks.
Kim's extended absence from the public eye is not his first. But it is believed to be his longest since assuming leadership after his father's death in 1994 in what became the world's first communist dynasty.
It remains unclear whether one of his three adult sons will carry the dynasty into a third generation. Kim himself spent 20 years preparing to take over as leader, but he has not named a successor.