The leader of the country has not been seen in public since April 11, according to reports. He did not appear at the Day of the Sun event on Wednesday 15 – a key holiday in the country’s calendar.
There are many possibly scenarios being discussed as to why Kim Jong-un has been out of sight for around three weeks.
One is that he is currently recovering from heart surgery. Seoul-based website Daily NK claimed that the North Korean leader had undergone such a treatment and was then treated at a private villa.
And the Independent reports that South Korean officials later said that the leader was believed to be conducting “normal activities” in a rural area of the country.
However, Kang Min-seok, a South Korean spokesman from the country’s presidential Blue House, said there was “nothing to confirm” the rumours about Kim Jong-un’s health.
And Moon Chung-in, a foreign policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in told Fox News that the leader was “alive and well” and that he had been staying in the country’s Wonsan area.
Other reports are less specific, but still pertain to some sort of issue surrounding the leader’s health.
A Reuters report claims that China sent a team including medical experts to “advise on” Kim Jong-un, citing “three people familiar with the situation”.
A team, led by a senior member of the Chinese Community Party’s International Liaison Department, left for North Korea on Thursday, the report states.
But China’s foreign ministry said it had only coronavirus testing reagents, and noted: “That is not the same as a medical team,” according to the Independent.
The US has been relatively quiet about the matter, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo telling Fox News: “I don’t have anything I can share with you tonight, but the American people should know we’re watching the situation very keenly.”
Another potential for Kim Jong-un’s lack of appearance is simply that he is carrying out social distancing as the COVID- 19 outbreak continues to grip many parts of the world.
This is despite the fact that North Korea has not disclosed a single case of Covid-19.
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Kim Yeon-chul, South Korean Unification Minister, told a parliamentary hearing that reports of any heart surgery were “fake news”, the Guardian reports.
Instead, the minister pointed out that although the leader had missed the anniversary event, other events, including a banquet, had been cancelled because of Covid-19 concerns.
He added: “I don’t think that’s particularly unusual given the current situation.”
US officials added that the leader may be in the east coast resort town of Wonsan in an effort to isolate from the virus.
One source – Ri Jong Ho, a North Korean defector who now lives in the US – told South Korean DongA Daily newspaper that Kim Jong-un may have been injured in military exercises, the Independent reports.
And one South Korean politician, Yoon Sang-hyun, who heads a committee on inter-Korean relations, suggested that the disappearance of the North Korean leader may simply be a way to attract attention.
It isn’t the first time the leader has dropped out of the public eye. He did so in 2014, prompting similar speculation as seen currently.
However, he returned six weeks later, walking with a cane.
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