In what would be the first overt sign of a power struggle in North Korea, leaflets demanding the ouster of Kim Jong Il were scattered in the capital's diplomatic district, a South Korean report said Tuesday.
Two foreign diplomats contacted in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, however, said the report was groundless.Kim Jong Il is the designated successor to his father, Kim Il Sung, who died July 8 after leading the reclusive, Stalinist country for nearly 40 years.
The strength of Kim Jong Il's hold on power has been unclear, leaving foreign observers nervous about the direction the often-bellicose country will take.
The South Korean national news agency Yonhap quoted an unidentified Western diplomat in Seoul as saying leaflets declaring "Down with Kim Jong Il" were dropped at embassies in Pyongyang on Friday night or Saturday morning.
The neighborhood where the leaflets were said to be dropped is off-limits to North Korean citizens, so their appearance would seem to indicate that some faction among the North Korean power elite was behind the mischief.
But the two diplomats contacted in Pyongyang, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no leaflets were distributed.
The report followed a broadcast Sunday by Radio Pyongyang warning that unless Kim's succession is assured, "ambitious persons and conspirators" could undermine the communist party.
The broadcast, summarized by Radio Press, a media monitoring service in Japan, did not mention anti-Kim leaflets. But it seemed at odds with official proclamations that the issue of Kim Jong Il's succession had been settled.
"Historical experience shows that unless the problem of a successor of a revolutionary leader is solved correctly, ambitious persons and conspirators may, with a breach of faith, play with the party and its revolution," the broadcast said.
When linked with the report of the leaflets, the broadcast seemed to indicate a power struggle, or a move by Kim Jong Il to lay the groundwork for a pre-emptive purge of potential rivals.