South Korea's spy chief, Kim Sung-ho, says North Korean leader Kim Jung Il is on the mend from an apparent stroke, and is recovering quickly.
In a radio interview Thursday, South Korean lawmaker Lee Cheol-woo says the country's spy chief told lawmakers Wednesday that Mr. Kim is not having any problems speaking or communicating, and is able to stand if assisted.
The spy chief's remarks were in sharp contrast to reports today in South Korea's local media, which claim the stroke left him partially paralyzed.
Officials in Seoul believe Mr. Kim is still in charge of his reclusive government, which has one of the world's largest standing armies, and missiles capable of reaching South Korea and Japan.
South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak has instructed his Cabinet to be prepared for possible changes in North Korea following reports about his health.
South Korean defense officials say they are drawing up contingency plans, but have not noted any unusual troop movements in North Korea.
North Korean officials deny Mr. Kim is ill, and have called reports about his condition part of a "conspiracy."
Experts on North Korea's media note that the country's state-run media has been absolutely silent about the international reports on Mr. Kim's health.
Speculation over Mr. Kim's health intensified earlier this week when he missed the 60th anniversary celebration of North Korea's founding on Tuesday.
Before that, questions about his health already were circulating, as North Korean media have not reported on any public appearance by Mr. Kim since mid-August.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.