North Korea has imposed a smoking ban at all venues used by its leader Kim Jong-II after doctors advised him to stop smoking and drinking, a former South Korean lawmaker said Tuesday.
The doctors urged Kim to quit after he underwent a heart operation, said Jang Sung-Min, an associate of former South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung who held a historic summit with Kim Jong-II in 2000.
"A Chinese diplomat who has close relations with the North Koreans told me by telephone that doctors had asked Chairman Kim Jong-Il to quit smoking and drinking," Jang told AFP.
"Kim's home, office and all other places he goes to have been designated as non-smoking areas. Even the highest-ranking officials are going outdoors to smoke," he said.
South Korea's National Intelligence Service refused to comment.
Kim, 65, has reduced his official activities this year, and a month-long disappearance from public view in May prompted rumours of failing health.
A team of German doctors visited Pyongyang in May, sparking speculation among some foreign and local news media that Kim might have had a heart operation. This has never been confirmed.
Intelligence officials here have said that Kim had long been known to be suffering from diabetes and heart problems.
But they said there was no evidence that his health had worsened seriously enough to hamper his activities. They also dismissed a British newspaper report that Kim cannot walk more than 30 metres (yards) at a time.
"The Chinese diplomat said Kim looked thin mainly because he could not smoke and drink," Jang said.
Several accounts portray Kim as a former chain-smoker and a cognac-guzzling playboy with an appetite for fine dining.
Since his father died, reportedly of a heart attack, at age 82 in 1994, Kim Jong-Il's health has been the subject of speculation due to the highly secretive nature of his hermit regime.