updated 10/31/2008 9:44:22 AM ET 2008-10-31T13:44:22

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il did not join top officials attending the funeral of a high-ranking party member, South Korean officials said Friday.

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Kim's failure to attend the funeral of Pak Song Chol, a close aide to his late father, Kim Il Sung, comes amid speculation about his health. South Korean and U.S. officials say Kim Jong Il, 66, suffered a stroke, reportedly in mid-August, and is still recovering.

North Korea denies the leader is ill.

North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency said Kim sent a wreath for the burial of Pak, 95, a member of Workers' Party Politburo and honorary vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, who was one of Kim Il Sung's closest aides.

South Korea's Unification Ministry confirmed Friday that Kim did not attend the funeral.

Kim is known to have attended only three funerals: that of his father, who died in 1994, and two other top North Korean officials.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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