Leader's Ill-Health Delays Korean Succession Process

North Korea's ruling party has delayed the start of a rare conference due to the health of its leader, Kim Jong-il, but his condition is not serious enough to cancel the meeting, South Korean television reported yesterday. The Workers' Party (WPK) conference, which will bring together the secretive state's ruling elite for the first time in 30 years, was called in order to pick a new leadership and likely anoint an heir to Kim – likely to be his youngest son, Kim Jong-un – as the leader's health deteriorates. The meeting had been due to start anytime between 1 and 15 September. With North and South Korea still technically at war, regional powers are anxious to know what changes are likely to occur within the regime, including who will command its army of 1.2 million troops. Kim, 68, is suspected of suffering a stroke in 2008, and failed to appear in public for months until 2009. He also looked frail during trips to China, the isolated North's only major supporter, over the past few months. South Korea's YTN television cited an intelligence official in Seoul as saying Kim's health had worsened after a whirlwind five-day trip to China last month.